Citizen Action Monitor

Riding the wave of Ontario’s community energy initiatives

81 Posted by fw, October 24, 2010

The UK-based Ecologist magazine is a great source of information for activists of all persuasions. And at $24 for an annual subscription to the online version, it’s a bargain.

This story in the August 17, 2010 edition caught my attention: Five steps to developing a community based energy project. Cutting to the chase, the five steps are:

  1. Get organized: “a good idea and an enthusiastic bunch of people can only go so far. In dealing with third parties, it pays to have a structure. From a practical point of view, having people with defined roles and responsibilities provides efficiencies in how to work and prevents duplication. From a legal point of view, having a vehicle through which the project is managed places project assets and liabilities in one place and protects those involved from personal liability.”
  2. Get support from the top: “Get your local councillors and MP on board with the plan – having a vote of confidence from those with sway will bring an added element of strength to the proposal and open up opportunities not normally available to start-ups. With all political parties now voicing support for community-owned renewable projects, support should be forthcoming. Just don’t forget to ask.”
  3. Get connected: “The number of stakeholders involved in making the project happen can be frightening. First and foremost there is the landowner: is he or she going to be happy with your project? Then there are regulatory bodies, such as the Environment Agency and Local Authorities, contractors and suppliers, interest groups and funders – the list goes on. Getting people on board can be one of the toughest challenges. Project managers can find themselves taking a crash course in diplomacy and negotiation. When it comes to managing objections, don’t expect that a community project will have the support of the whole community – there are many shades of opinion when it comes to environmental issues.”
  4. Manage the risks: “You will need to have arrangements in place that eliminate, mitigate or allocate risks. Be self-aware: it’s unlikely you will have all the expertise within your team, so make sure you find it from the best possible providers and seek out people who can help get your project off the ground. You need the right people managing the right stages of the process if everything is to fit into place.”
  5. Get funded: “Put time and effort into building a financial model showing costs and projected returns. Build in contingency and don’t underestimate possible expenditure. Investors will want to see that you’ve been realistic about costs and that you’ve made provision for the unexpected. A number of community projects have successfully raised funds through community share options – a true realisation of community ownership. There is appetite for this kind of investment: people are seeking out ethical investment opportunities, and the arrival of feed-in tariffs for small-scale renewables means consistent returns.” And don’t overlook seed money from government, philanthropic, and corporate sources.”
That’s a UK-based story. Curious to know more, I Googled to find out what was happening in Ontario. And, in a matter of a few minutes, here’s a quick summary of what I found —
  • The Ontario Sustainable Energy AssociationThe Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) is a province-wide, member-based, non-profit organization representing more than 1500 individuals including private citizens, cooperatives, farmers, First Nations, businesses, institutions and municipalities. OSEA members are engaged in or supporting Community Power projects and renewable energy. Mission: to serve the Community Power sector including households, farms, First Nations, co-operatives and collaborative businesses, local distribution companies, municipalities, other institutions and non-Community Power partners through: advocacy, public outreach and capacity building. Vision: Every Ontarian is a conserver and generator of sustainable energy either through a household or through a local community owned business, contributing to the transition to 100% sustainable energy. Goals: 1) An Ontario Green Energy Act by 2010 (Achieved April 2009); 2) Community Power development with more than 50 per cent community ownership; 3) 500 megawatts of Community Power in Ontario by 2012; 4)100 per cent renewable energy powering Ontario by 2025
  • Ontario Power Authority: News release: TORONTO, May 10, 2010 – Communities across Ontario will be able to benefit from a new program designed to make it easier to plan, develop and bring to life small-scale renewable energy projects. The Community Energy Partnerships Program (CEPP), which launched today, will cover up to 90 per cent of eligible development costs to a maximum of $200,000 for community power projects greater than 10 kilowatts and no larger than 10 megawatts.  Charities, not-for-profits and co-ops will be eligible for the fund as well as projects developed by individual Ontario residents, such as farmers. “Opening Ontario’s doors to clean energy means that everyone can participate in growing Ontario’s clean energy economy and the jobs associated with it,” said Brad Duguid, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure. “Today’s launch of the Community Energy Partnership Program will make it easier for not-for-profits, co-ops and farmers to become clean energy providers through community-owned renewable energy projects.”
  • Recurrent Energy: “Recurrent Energy is an independent power producer and a leading developer of distributed solar projects for utilities, government, and commercial customers. We develop, build, and operate distributed solar power systems—typically 2-20MW each—connected to the existing distribution grid. Our vision is to use proven solar technology to meet rising energy demand with a fleet of clean power plants located right where they’re needed most. With a project pipeline of 2 GW, we’re well on our way to achieving that vision. Recurrent Energy’s focus on distributed scale projects enables us to bypass many of the time consuming land-use and interconnection issues that typically delay central-scale renewable projects. As a result, we can deliver all the benefits of solar sooner.
  • Guelph’s Community Energy Initiative: “In April 2007, Guelph City Council unanimously endorsed the vision, goals and general directions of a 25-year Community Energy Initiative that will put Guelph on the cutting edge for North America. The Community Energy Initiative (formerly Community Energy Plan – CEP) is Guelph’s commitment to use and manage energy differently, better, than we have in the past. The initiative will also attract quality investment to the city. After all, experts agree that a reliable, sustainable energy supply is and will continue to be a key ingredient in the long-term competitiveness and prosperity of cities. Guelph’s goals under the plan are to: 1) use less energy in 25 years than we do today; 2) consume less energy per capita than comparable Canadian cities; 3) produce less greenhouse gas per capita than the current global average.” For more information: Guelph’s Community Energy Plan: Executive Summary


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