A group of seven renewable energy co-ops from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Nova Scotia is calling on the federal government to emphasize community power procurement, deep energy retrofits, and smart grid development in economic stimulus responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This stimulus would unlock untapped community capital for the fight against climate change, as a means to immediately create green jobs across the country and, most importantly, build a bipartisan support base for climate change action,” the co-ops write, in a June 24 letter to Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna, Environment and Climate Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, and Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault.
That’s the triumvirate of ministers who’ve spent the last four months working on a green recovery plan that has received halting support from the Trudeau government. Participating co-ops include the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op (OREC)/CoEnergy, which led the sign-on, SES Solar Co-operative Ltd. in Saskatoon, Bow Valley Green Energy Cooperative in Calgary area, Colchester-Cumberland Wind Field Inc. in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, the Solar Power Investment Co-operative of Edmonton, Wascana Solar Co-op in Regina, and SolarShare in Toronto.
[Disclosure: The Energy Mix publisher Mitchell Beer is an always proud and occasionally active member of OREC/CoEnergy.]
“Procuring federal electricity from renewable energy co-operatives would have a significant economic benefit all across Canada, leveraging millions of dollars of community investment in renewable power,” the co-ops write. “While procurement of electricity from large solar and wind farms may have cost advantages, procurement from community-owned sources would have a far greater local economic impact and have widespread public support.”
The seven groups see the power buys taking the form of 20- or 30-year leases or contracts that take advantage of the “zero fuel cost of renewable energy” once the hardware is installed. “The price paid would be both financially viable for the co-operative and provide savings for the federal government over the term of the lease against grid tariffs,” they write. “This win-win approach has been demonstrated by a recent contract signed between OREC and the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa.”
But “to be effective, the federal community power procurement stimulus would need to be large enough to drive down installation costs.” That’s why the co-ops want Ottawa to focus on high-carbon grids in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, and provinces like Ontario where “closure and refurbishment of nuclear capacity will otherwise mean significant increases in natural gas generation.”
“The opportunities to mobilize community capital towards a clean energy future not only address concerns of how this transition will be funded, but also allow opportunities for collective, democratic ownership of clean energy projects,” notes OREC Communications Manager Aaron Thornell in a blog post this week. “Community, co-operative ownership facilitates the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, as the communities in which these projects are located are those that stand to benefit not only as investors in these initiatives, but also enjoy greater community resilience, comfort, and productivity.”