Building Community Power CO-OPperatively: A Renewable Energy Summit

Friday, 16 December 2011

2012 . International Year of the Co-operative (Co-op).

2012 has been recognised as the International Year of Co-operatives by the United Nations. This is an acknowledgement by the international community that co-operatives drive the economy, respond to social change, are resilient to the global economic crisis and are serious, successful businesses creating jobs in all sectors.

Co-operatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility.
- Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Cooperators tell us why co-ops are better!

Why co-ops are better

The Co-operators Group Limited (CGL) is a Canadian-owned co-operative with over 65 years of history. Our member-owners include co-operatives, credit union centrals and organizations that operate using co-operative principles. From communities across the country, they represent a variety of sectors, including agriculture, finance, service, retail/consumer, health and labour.

Business based on shared values

Our business decisions are guided by our co-operative principles, so the need for profitability is balanced with the needs of our member-owners and their communities. Making people a priority and taking a long-term view of business decisions makes The Co-operatorsfundamentally different from most insurance companies.

It's In Our Name

What is a co-operative?

Generally speaking, a co-operative is a business owned and democratically controlled by the people who use its services. The user-owners are called members and they benefit in two ways from the co-operative:

  • Products and services are customized to suit their needs
  • Profits are distributed to members based on the amount of business they do with the co-operative.

Co-operatives can provide almost any product or service, can be either non-profit or for-profit organizations, and thrive equally in urban and rural centres.

What’s the difference between co-ops and corporations?

Co-operatives are community-based organizations that care not only about their business’ bottom line, but also about their members’ needs and the quality of life in their communities. Co-ops and credit unions successfully compete in the marketplace without abandoning the values and principles that set them apart from other business models. Co-operatives and credit unions differ from other businesses in terms of purpose, control structure and allocation of profit.

For more informaiton please go to:

Thursday, 1 December 2011

HHEAT Workshop in Burlington!

The HHEAT hosted its third and final introductory workshop for 2011 in Halton last night at the Burlington Central Library. This event was held collaboratively with the assistance of local green pioneers Burlington Green as part of their 2011 AGM's event 'Burlington: Our Energy Future". There was a huge turnout as more than 70 people came out for an evening of discussion, networking and fostering community connections. With noted speakers such from Mayor Goldring, Amy Schnurr, Ken Woodruff and HHEAT's very own Jeff Harti, it was a lively and engaging atmosphere that sparked and heightened interest locally towards renewable energy and community power. We would like to thank everyone for coming out and we urge you to keep in touch with us by joining our HHEAT blog, visiting our websites and getting in contact with the HHEAT Coordinator: Anuja at here.anujar@gmail with any questions or comments about the project or the upcoming 2012 workshops.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Case Studies on the CEPP website

Check out case studies of renewable energy projects here in Ontario. Who qualifies, who is already online, who is getting there.
Fit Grant Recipients

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A dead heat - crematorium to sell power for National Grid (UK).

Durham Crematorium wants to install turbines in two of its burners, which would use the heat generated during the cremation process to provide the same amount of electricity as would power 1,500 televisions.
A third burner is to be used to provide heating for the site's chapel and its offices.
The scheme would be the first of its kind in the UK but industry experts say that it could be followed by other similar projects.
Many crematoria are currently replacing their furnaces, to meet government targets on preventing mercury emissions from escaping into the atmosphere.
Read more here.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Mohawk College lands $2.2m energy boost

Mohawk College is getting $2.2 million over five years from the federal government.
The grant is part of a $13-million program being handed out to 18 community colleges across the country.
Under the Innovation Enhancement Grant it will support a new research centre in energy technology at the college.
The centre will undertake an applied research project aimed at solving the problem of connecting small scale locale power generation technologies like solar panels and wind turbines to the existing power grid.
The project will include construction of a micro-powered grid to test generation distribution and protection systems.
The college will work with Horizon Utilities, General Electric and McMaster University among others.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Burlington:Our Energy Future


HHEAT Building Community Power Co-operatively Workshop in Burlington!

THE HHEAT 3rd and final introductory workshop will be part of the Burlington Green's AGM.

FREE event: November 30 @ Central Public Library (2331 New St., Burlington, ON).

•6:00 pm: BurlingtonGreen Annual General Meeting (Public welcome)

•6:30 pm: Visit Clean Energy Vendors

•7:00 pm: Why Renewable Energy? (multi-media presentation) What is Community Power? (Keynote by Burlington Mayor) Take ACTION & reap the benefits ! (H.H.E.A.T.)

In this introductory HHEAT workshop you will learn about the benefits of renewable energy (solar, wind, hydro and bio-energy). You will also be introduced to the concept of community power (locally-controlled and decentralized energy systems) and begin exploring the potential for locally-owned, community renewable energy co-operatives. Find out how you can invest in renewable energy as part of a collective of investors.

•8:30 pm: Closing Comments & FREE raffle

For more information about HHEAT, please contact Anuja at 647-880-4656 or

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Minister of Energy delivers keynote for Community Power Awards

Minister of Energy delivers keynote for Community Power Awards

Nov 15th, 2011 3:28 PM

Media Release

(TORONTO, ON November 15, 2011) The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) 2011 Community Power Awards were presented last night during the Green Connection banquet & awards ceremony. The award winners are individuals who have made significant contributions to the Community Power movement in Ontario and globally.

The award presentation followed a keynote speech by Chris Bentley, Ontario's Minister of Energy.

The awards were presented by Kristopher Stevens, the Executive Director of OSEA.

The 2011 award winners are:

Community Power Leader
Award winner: Mike Brigham, President of TREC Solar Share

International Community Power Leader
Award winner: Stefan Gsänger, World Wind Energy Association, Secretary General, since WWEA's foundation in 2001

Urban Community Power Leader
Award winner: Farrah Khan, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

Aboriginal Community Power Leader
Award winner: Byron LeClair, Director of Community Development, Pic River First Nation

Rural Community Power Leader
Award Winner: Don McCabe, Vice-President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

The Community Power Conference 2011 is Ontario's single largest annual gathering of Community Power producers, proponents and supporters. Together with the Power Networking Centre trade show, the conference attracts industry regulators, commercial and Community Power generators, farmers and First Nation and Métis delegations.

For more information, contact: Nicole Risse at or (416) 977-4441 ext. 5205

The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA), works to initiate, facilitate and support the work of local sustainable energy organizations through membership services and province wide capacity-building and non-partisan policy work. It promotes the benefits of Community Power and renewable energy through advocacy, public outreach and capacity building.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

For More Solar Energy, Occupy Rooftops

Occupy Wall Street protesters may have been kicked out of Zuccotti Park, but the movement has inspired efforts around the country to fight back against economic injustice. One such effort is planned for this weekend, when communities who want to increase the prevalence of solar power can Occupy Rooftops.

The organization behind Occupy Rooftops, Solar Mosaic, is trying to revolutionize how communities fund solar. The idea of Sunday’s event is to show that “anyone, anywhere can start a community solar project to create jobs and clean energy in their community,” says Lisa Curtis, Solar Mosaic’s communications manager. Solar Mosaic helps communities fund solar projects, which are often unaffordable for organizations on tight budgets, by appealing for crowdsourced investments of $100. For Occupy Rooftops, the group has recruited partners including climate campaigners, solar provider Sungevity, and environmental powerhouses like the Sierra Club.
Read the full article here.

Friday, 18 November 2011

OSEA's Community Power 2011

Here is a report from the OSEA Community Power Conference 2012 that I attended on November 15th, 2012.

Moving Community Power forward: Setting the Agenda for 2012

This was a closed working session by invitation only. The morning started with key note speaker John Restakis, executive director of B.C. Co-operative Association and author of Humanizing the Economy: Co-operatives in the Age of Capital.

The presentation was absolutely inspiring and gave us as pause to reflect on the following themes: community mobilization, public accountability going beyond simply the production of energy.
Restakis who is the director of the B.C. renewable Energy Co-operative talked about the co-operative city (of which Vancouver hopes to me one). Check out this essential document:

The cooperative city BCCA co-op and how municipalities can team up with the community.

Restakis talked about the relationship to municipality. I was excited by his ideas of a co-op as a structural mechanism to deliver a larger frame of reference-that is, including political bodies like municipalities.
In Italy (Amelia, Umbria) the AGACC Co-op consists of members who are municipalities. They have combined to create a region-wide association. Orders of cooperation become larger and larger when cities know how to work together.

Co-ops extend responsibility for sustainable energy. In promoting a sustainable city, co-ops bring an educational component (a key co-op mission)beyond simply the production of energy.

Beyond Capital: Co-ops add value to the city. It's social capital, enhancing the community connection, community mobilization and public accountability.
Co-ops promote community interaction and reciprocity.
The concern is that there is a growing sense of isolation, disconnection and disengagement-both on the personal and social front.
Co-ops demand that people work together around social goals, regenerate reciprocity, co-ops build community. Link it to the recreation and building of community. Basically, if the city wants to build sustainablity that is going to last, it has to think about how it is going to engage its citizens. It has to think about systems that can outlast political agendas. How do you build in the institutional supports that will carry through? is the question Restakis asks.
We need community base and infrastructure with deep community roots.

Groups participating in the conference were asked for their vision for renewable energy in 2018.
One group suggested we look at the German example where Community Power (CP)is institutionalized. That means prioritizing CP, facilitating its financing, making CP product RRSP eligible and so on.Other suggestions included getting connected as neighbourhood hubs/energy hubs and tying Community Power in with local food movement.
After this we heard from Judith Lipp (ED of TREC) and JJ McMurtry of York University on the topic of Measuring the Co-op Difference (sshrc/cura funded).

CP groups include co-ops, educational institutions, municipalities, First Nations. We were asked for our input into the social advantage and market advantage of community owned versus commercially owned projects as well as the disadvantages of each.
Some advantages of community owned include localized economic development, less 'nimbyism' while with the commercial projects more jobs, capacity building, purchasing power, security.
Co-ops have a much higher survival rate- built in democratic process.
Some challenges: for CP the regulatory process in daunting, FSCO,CIA,OPA)

We heard in one group that Infrastructure Ontario for non profit organizations has funding available.

Afternoon session:
Community power public offerings and community power project finance.
We heard from various co-op directors including Andrew Clarke from Agris Solar Co-op (100% owned by farmers). Sparksolar runs and manages the co-op.
Also Mark Labbe from Options for Green Energy who is helping to facilitate Halls Pond solar co-operative (a 7.5MW system with a $26 million capital cost, 8 million community bonds and 600-8000 members).
Labbe talked about his work with Guelph Solar Community co-operative ( 20-40 members). We heard from Mark Powell: Waterpower Projects 15% Renewable Energy Co-op, Radicle Consulting and St Agatha Wind Project with LIFE in Kitchener Waterloo.
We learned about early stage financing, what investors like to see, how lenders think and the financial challenges for a CP project.
According to the OPA, there is only 1000W-2,000W available on the grid.

Putting more wind in offshore project’s sails

Putting more wind in offshore project’s sails
Lisa Grace Marr. From the Tue Nov 15 2011

Several large Hamilton companies such as McKeil Marine and Bermingham Foundation Solutions have joined a larger Lake Ontario consortium to encourage the development of offshore wind power projects.

The consortium is called LOON — Lake Ontario Offshore Network — and includes a group of regional manufacturers and suppliers with the qualifications and skills specific to building large offshore wind power projects.

The aim of LOON is to put pressure on the provincial government to withdraw its moratorium on offshore wind projects, a move it made in February, suggesting that more scientific research is required.

The Ministry of Energy issued a statement suggesting it would be monitoring a freshwater project in Sweden and a pilot project in Ohio before lifting the ban.

It caused a tailspin for several green energy companies including Windstream Energy which had the only feed-in-tariff contract for a project to build 100 three-megawatt turbines in the Wolfe Island area outside Kingston. Each would stand 100 metres tall.

An economic impact study for Windstream last December said the total project investment would be $1.36 billion, of which $700 million would remain in Ontario. It would also generate about 1,900 jobs during the five-year construction phase and 175 operational jobs over 20 years.

Randi Rahamim, a spokesperson for Windstream, said the time has come to gather forces to get the government to lift the moratorium.

“New York, Ohio and other places in Ontario are also looking at building these offshore projects. These are beginning to move quickly and it’s whoever is first wins. This is to get the experience and the expertise to do these and turn around and sell that expertise to New York and Ohio. Ontario desperately needs jobs.”

Paulo Pessoa, VP business development, projects, at McKeil, said the company worked in 2008 and 2009 with Windstream, transporting equipment to Wolfe Island for a land wind power project.

He said the new larger project would likely mean employment for about 45 to 60 employees over three years to transport goods to the construction site.

“Offshore wind energy has lots of potential as an industry,” said Pessoa. “Everybody was disappointed about the moratorium on the project. We could realize so many jobs out of this.”

Pessoa said if the government lifts the moratorium; it could be several years before the project could start due to the need for studies on the environment and other factors.

“We need to work together and stick together. (The wind turbine project is) not going to be around other people, it’s not going to be an eyesore, it’s in the middle of the lake.”

Rahamim said the economic impact of the project would be significant for Hamilton in the number of jobs created and in generated revenue.

Other local members of the consortium include steel fabricators Walters Inc. for its underwater welding of towers, McKeil for transporting towers and cranes, Bermingham for foundation drillings, the Hamilton Port Authority for assembly and trans-shipment space and Samuel, Son & Co. as steel providers.

Rahamim said Windstream has requested a meeting with the premier to discuss the issue, hopefully before the end of the year.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

HHEAT Community Meeting in Milton!

The Hamilton Halton Energy Awareness Team hosted its second introductory community power workshop at Landscape Ontario, Milton on Wednesday 16th November, 2011.

There was a high level of interest among local people as they came out, enjoyed the presentation and had many specific questions for HHEAT's Technical Specialist: Jeff Harti.

Of the top concerns for the night were the FIT and MicroFIT program review and predictions, questions about the content for the 2012 Workshops, solar logistics, requests for more information and follow-up meetings.

The next Halton 'Building Community Power Co-operatively" Workshop will be held on Wednesday 30th November, 2011 at the Burlington Central Library from 6.00-8.30pm in conjunction with local hub Burlington Green. For more information please contact Anuja at or call 647-880-4656.

Boys and Girls Club of London, On

Check out this video and see how this co-operative got a 138 KW project on their roof top.

Monday, 14 November 2011

FIT and MicroFIT Review Deadline

Ontario is moving forward with its commitment to review the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) Program. The review will consider a range of issues, including but not limited to:

· FIT price reduction
· ensuring the long-term sustainability of clean energy procurement
· continuing to build on the success of Ontario-based manufacturing
· consideration of new technologies and fuel sources
· local consultations and the renewable approval process (REA).
As a result of this review, new prices and rules for FIT contracts will be carefully developed to balance the interests of ratepayers with the need to encourage investments in new clean energy in Ontario. Ontarians can provide feedback by answering an online survey or making a written submission at until December 14, 2011.

The microFIT Program review was announced on October 31. Consultations will continue until December 14, 2011. During this period, microFIT applications will continue to be accepted and time-stamped, but they will not be processed until the new version of the Rules and pricing schedule are available.

Rule change for new microFIT applications

The OPA has made a rule change that applies to all microFIT applications submitted on or after December 8, 2010. Applicants will need to obtain an offer to connect from their local distribution company before the OPA issues a microFIT conditional offer of contract. As a reminder, if you have submitted a microFIT application, it is very important for you to speak to your local distribution company about connecting your project to the grid before proceeding with your project.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Community Power Roadmap to Success: OSEA Workshop Nov 9th 2011

Join us for a hands-on experiential workshop where we walk you through a prospect for a project that will give you the basic tools required to get a community solar power project started in your own community.

No previous experience required other than a desire to be part of Ontario's renewable future.

Experts will guide you through an interactive discussion.

When:Wednesday, November 9, 6:30 - 9:30 pm

Where:Central Branch - Hamilton Public Library
55 York Boulevard

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Building Community Power Co-operatively!

The Hamilton Halton Energy Awareness Team (HHEAT) presents:

Building Community Power Co-operatively!

In this introductory workshop you will learn about the benefits of renewable energy (solar, wind, bio-energy and hydro).

You will also be introduced to the idea of Community Power (locally-controlled, decentralized energy systems) and begin exploring the potential for local, community-owned renewable energy co-operatives.

Find out how you can invest in renewable energy as collective investors.

Date: Wednesday 16TH NOVEMBER, 2011.

Location: Landscape Ontario, 7856 5th Line South (between Steeles Ave. and 401), Milton

Time: 7.00 - 9.30pm

For more information contact Anuja at 647-880-4656 or

Friday, 28 October 2011


What: A neighbourhood Solar Tour of three Milton properties.

Who: Anyone who is interested in renewable energy and solar power!

Where: Three different residential solar installations across Milton, starting point will be the northwestern corner of Derry Road and Ontario St. N.

When: 1.00pm-4.00pm on Sunday 6th November, 2011.

Cost: FREE!

Contact: or 647-880-4656, Halton Environmental Network

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Frequently asked questions about green energy in Ontario.

Frequently asked questions about green energy in Ontario

Published Sept. 20, 2011

By Tim Weis

Ontario has taken the laudable step of closing down its entire fleet of coal-fired power plants — a move supported across partisan lines. This, however, is but one of the many changes that is coming to Ontario's electricity system.

Tim Weis, director of renewable energy & energy efficiency, answers some of the most frequently asked questions about the role that renewable energy could play in the future of electricity generation in Ontario.

Learn more


Renewable is Doable!

Latest Updates

August 2010

Green energy key to avoiding steep nuclear costs in Ontario: report

Ontario's Green Energy Plan 2.0 shows value of investing in green energy

Green Energy Plan 2.0

Renewable is Doable's latest report outlines how Ontario could save money by replacing the retiring Pickering nuclear station with green energy options such as wind power, solar and biogas.

Last summer, Ontario suspended its purchase of two new replacement reactors when their cost reportedly topped $26 billion — $20 billion more than expected in 2007.

This report, Ontario's Green Energy Plan 2.0, shows that a mix of green energy technologies and conservation acquired through the government's Green Energy Act would be 12 to 48 per cent cheaper than buying new reactors to replace the aging Pickering nuclear station, which is set to close in 2020 due to high maintenance costs.

Read the media release.

Download the report [PDF].


Thursday, 20 October 2011

HHEAT at the Dundas Town Hall

Close to 40 people came out to the "Building Community Power Co-operatively" workshop on Tuesday night. Jeff Harti gave a presentation that inspired many ideas, questions and interest in pursuing the co-op model for generating locally generated energy and decentralising energy production in Ontario.

Again, like in the previous meets, participants requested more examples of how co-ops actually work.
Their wish shall be fulfilled at upcoming workshops slated to take place in the new year.

In the mean time, keep checking this blog for workshops pertaining to community power.

Environment Hamilton is partnering with OSEA to deliver a workshop called
Community Power Roadmap to Success

When:Wednesday, November 9, 6:30 - 9:30 pm

Where:Central Branch - Hamilton Public Library

55 York Boulevard

This is a hands-on experiential workshop where you will be walked through a prospect for a project that will give you the basic tools required to get a community solar power project started in your own community.
No previous experience required other than a desire to be part of Ontario's renewable future.

Experts will guide you through an interactive discussion.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Liberals re-elected-GEA lives on in Ontario.

Liberals re-elected in Ontario: Green Energy Act and feed-in-tariff program live on

Happy to report that the re-election of the Ontario Liberal government last night means the province’s landmark Green Energy Act, which gave birth to the continent’s first comprehensive Euro-style feed-in-tariff program, has survived its first major challenge. The opposition Progressive Conservative party vowed to scrap the FIT program if elected and neuter the green energy legislation that has brought billions of dollars of investment to Ontario, thousands of jobs, and a new economic pathway for a province that needs to reinvent itself for the 21st century.

The election outcome means the admittedly far-from-perfect FIT will remain and the legislation protected, at least for a few years — enough time for these ambitious initiatives to prove their worth to Ontarians. In many ways, the fact Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals were left 1 seat short of a majority government is a good thing, as it forces the government to consider and take seriously some legitimate concerns with how the FIT has rolled out and the lack of attention paid to energy conservation initiatives. The New Democratic Party of Ontario, which won 17 seats, are generally supportive of both the GEA and the FIT, but the fact they hold the balance of power could — and should — nudge the Liberal government to improve its approach.

1. The NDP has been rightly critical of the Liberals for their lack of attention to energy conservation programs, so perhaps now they can light a fire under the Liberals, which have done some important things on conservation but recently have only paid lip-service to it, despite the fact it’s the best and most permanent way — from both a cost and environmental perspective — to create jobs and reduce the province’s dependence on fossil fuels.

2. Expect the NDP to also force the government’s hand on the nuclear file — specifically plans to build two new reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. Can we afford it? Does it make sense? Would the money be better spent on deep energy conservation efforts and programs to help low-income Ontarians deal with the energy transition taking place in this province?

3. The NDP’s idea of putting all the power back in the hands of a re-constituted Ontario Hydro is flawed beyond belief, but certainly one can envision a new role for Ontario Power Generation. Why not let OPG develop renewables such as wind, particularly in the far north, in a way that still respects the need for independent power developers and the partly competitive market we currently have? It won’t be easy, but certainly the question should be asked. Letting OPG put some flesh in the game could also change the dialogue with the Power Workers’ Union, which has bashed the McGuinty green energy plan partly — if not mostly — because it threatens the jobs of its unionized workers at coal and nuclear plants.

4. I would hope the Liberals, backed by the NDP, also put pressure on Hydro One, which many believe has purposely dragged its feet when it comes to upgrading transmission and distribution to accommodate green energy projects, in hopes the PCs would win the election last night. Sorry folks — your wish didn’t come true. Time to deliver on what your shareholder has asked you to do. And if Hydro One can’t do it, perhaps the government should consider the idea of permitting merchant lines in Ontario, allowing private-sector transmission developers to enter the game to fill a vacuum left behind by our public utility.

5. Finally, the NDP did seem to emphasize a need to listen to the concerns of municipalities more closely. The Liberals were too dismissive of local concerns when the GEA and FIT were launched, declaring they would have no tolerance for NIMBYism. Well, obviously that wasn’t an issue when it came to natural gas power plant protests, so the Libs have exposed themselves as hypocritical on this file. Some of those protesting wind farms in rural Ontario are extreme, and they will never be pleased. But many have more legitimate and addressable concerns that need to be heard and, when possible and reasonable, acted on. The government needs to show more goodwill in this area, otherwise it will never get the rural buy-in that it desperately needs for Ontario’s green-energy future to remain bright.

Anyway, these are just some of my initial thoughts. Please consider this an open thread. I’m interested in hearing other views out there.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Community Power Fund

Welcome to the Community Power Fund
The Community Power Fund (CP Fund) was established in 2007 to support project development activities of Ontario-based community organizations pursuing local renewable energy projects, through the provision of a number of financing instruments to support community power, including grants, loans and investment equity.

These instruments include the Community Power Fund grant program, the Community Energy Partnerships Program, and Community Power Capital. For more information, please visit the CP Financing page.

Corporate Structure
The Fund is incorporated as a non-profit, co-operative corporation. The Community Power Fund is governed by a 10 member Board of Directors. The Board is responsible for hiring and managing the CPF Executive Director, selecting the Technical Evaluation Committee members, and making the final approval decisions on the applications received.

The Fund was founded by the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) and three of its founding and current Directors are Directors of OSEA. Each of the Fund Directors has a three-year term. Directors wishing to continue beyond that term must be approved by the Board.

Community Power Fund

OSEA'S Community Power Services Group!

The Community Power Services Group (CPSG) is OSEA's service wing. We assist community groups and individuals in developing their own renewable energy projects.

We understand that community-based organizations and individual residents may not have the financial or human resources to perform all the feasibility, design & development activities involved in building a renewable power project. Therefore, in addition to our wide range ofservices, we start by helping our clients to secure grant funding to cover project development costs. The main funder of community power projects in Ontario is the Community Energy Partnership Program (CEPP).

Our team and our network are determined to provide the capacity needed for your renewable energy project to become a success! Please feel free to view our community projects to get a better idea of our experience and focus.

For more information on our services please take a look at our brochures:

  • Individual community members should examine this brochure:
    • Individuals typically include farmers, small buisness owners, landowners or any other resident of Ontario.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Solar PV rapidly becoming the cheapest option to generate electricity

By Kees Van Der Leun
For a long time, the holy grail of solar photovoltaics (PV) has been "grid parity," the point at which it would be as cheap to generate one's own solar electricity as it is to buy electricity from the grid. And that is indeed an important market milestone, being achieved now in many places around the world. But recently it has become clear that PV is set to go beyond grid parity and become the cheapest way to generate electricity.

Whenever I say this I encounter incredulity, even vehement opposition, from friends and foes of renewable energy alike. Apparently, knowledge of the rapid developments of the last few years has not been widely disseminated. But it's happening, right under our noses! It is essential to understand this so that we can leverage it to rapidly switch to a global energy system fully based on renewable energy.

Solar cells.A hundred solar cells, good for 380 watts of solar PV power.Photo: Ariane van DijkWorking on solar PV energy at Ecofys since 1986, I have seen steady progression: efficiency goes up, cost goes down. But it was only on a 2004 visit to Q-Cells' solar cell factory in Thalheim, Germany, that it dawned on me that PV could become very cheap indeed. They gave me a stack of 100 silicon solar cells, each capable of producing 3.8 watts of power in full sunshine. I still have it in the office; it's only an inch high!

That's when I realized how little silicon was needed to supply the annual electricity consumption of an average European family (4,000 kWh). Under European solar radiation, it would take 1,400 cells, totaling less than 30 pounds of silicon.

Of course, you need to cover the cells with some glass and add a frame, a support structure, some cables, and an inverter. But the fact that 30 pounds of silicon, an amount that costs $700 to produce, is enough to generate a lifetime of household electricity baffled me. Over 25 years, the family would pay at least $25,000 for the same 100,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity from fossil fuels -- and its generation cost alone would total over $6,000!

At a very large scale, the cost of manufacturing anything drops to just above the cost of its base materials. As scale goes up, per-unit costs come down. This is known as a "learning curve" -- the price per unit of capacity comes down by x percent for every doubling of cumulatively installed capacity. For solar PV modules, the learning rate has been exceptionally high, averaging 22 percent for the past two decades. The cost of the "balance of system," i.e., all other components needed, follows this trend line closely. So this is what we see happening now in PV:


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Building Community Power Co-operatively

Next HHEAT meetings for Hamilton (these two meetings are the same as the one at Laidlaw):

Tuesday, October 18th-Dundas Town Hall 7-9pm
60 Main St, Dundas

Wednesday November 2nd- Beasley Community Centre
145 Wilson St, Hamilton

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Ontario's Path to Green Prosperity

Just 20 years ago, nearly all of Germany’s electricity was generated by coal, oil and nuclear power. Today, renewables such as wind and solar provide more than 20 per cent of the nation’s power. Clean energy production has become a major source of jobs and investment. It has been a real success story for the economy and the environment.

Ontario is now embarking on a similar path. It is building a global reputation as an emerging clean energy leader in North America. To drive this change, Ontario is using a feed-in-tariff program (providing price incentives for green energy) that is very similar to the one we have used in Germany. This program has been the key to our success, and should produce similar results in Ontario.

Germany’s feed-in tariff (FiT) was introduced in 1991 by a conservative federal government. (So it is surprising to hear some Canadian politicians describe this as a “left-wing” or “liberal” idea.) That conservative government understood that coal and nuclear power posed serious health and environmental threats, and that clean energy was likely to drive the economy of the future. The FiT included two parts: an obligation for electric utilities to purchase renewable electricity from independent producers, and a tariff that set a premium price to be paid to producers of this electricity.

Early experience led to refinements in Germany’s pioneering feed-in tariff — many of which I brought in as environment minister (from 1998 to 2005). These included a 20-year price guarantee, which was critical to attract investment in this start-up technology, with uncertain future prices. Also, purchase prices came to be based on production cost — which meant different prices for wind, solar, biomass and geothermal power. These prices were designed to decline annually (for new facilities), based on expected cost reductions for clean energy production — an approach known as “tariff degression.”

In addition to boosting renewables to 20.8 per cent of Germany’s power supply by mid-2011, the FiT is credited with helping to create an estimated 370,000 new jobs. According to one study, employment in Germany’s green energy sector is projected to surpass employment in its automotive sector by 2020. The FiT has helped make Germany a leader in the fast-growing global market for clean energy technology — which saw a record $243 billion in new investment in 2010, of which German firms secured $41 billion (second only to China).

The feed-in tariff has proven to be among the most effective policy tools for accelerating the deployment of renewable energy, and has now been adopted by more than 46 jurisdictions worldwide — including Ontario.

Ontario’s feed-in tariff, adopted as part of the 2009 Green Energy and Green Economy Act, is North America’s first comprehensive pricing program for boosting renewable energy. Ontario’s approach seems well-designed, and is modelled on the lessons learned from Germany.

It starts by paying a premium price to producers of clean energy, including farmers and homeowners. This guaranteed price is necessary to kick-start investment in this new technology, as we learned in Germany; but as efficiencies of scale reduce production costs (as with most new technologies) this price premium can decline, and clean energy can eventually compete on equal footing in the market. Accordingly, Ontario’s program will reduce the price for renewable power over time, as it becomes more cost-competitive.

Since the Green Energy Act came in, renewable power production has increased rapidly; it now provides 5 per cent of Ontario’s electricity capacity, and is projected to reach 13 per cent by 2018. That’s enough to power 1.9 million homes. Moreover, Ontario’s feed-in tariff has already attracted more than $26 billion in private sector investment, and generated an estimated 20,000 new jobs. Those figures are consistent with the kinds of results we have seen in Germany.

Just as Germany’s feed-in tariff will enable our nation to break its ties with nuclear power by 2022, so Ontario’s FiT is making possible the province’s plan to phase out coal-burning power plants by 2014. Turning off Ontario’s coal-fired power plants is the largest greenhouse gas reduction initiative in North America: one that will also save thousands of lives and billions in health-care costs.

The world is shifting to a clean energy future. The places that move first in this direction will reap the economic rewards, as we have seen in Germany. Ontario is on the right path. Now it must stay the course.

Jürgen Trittin was Germany’s minister for the environment from 1998 to 2005.

Source: The Star