by Marc Viau
Though still somewhat new to Ontario, community-level renewable energy has been quite successful in Europe. In countries like Germany, more than 50 per cent of renewable energy is generated by co-operatives and farmers. Similarly, in Denmark three-quarters of wind turbines are owned by co-operatives.
OREC solar team. Photo courtesy OREC.
Here in Canada's capital, the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op (OREC) empowers Eastern Ontario residents to support local renewable energy sector through responsible, long-term investments that finance projects, as members of a democratic co-operative.
With 450 members already on board and 13 solar projects in its ever-expanding portfolio, OREC is making headlines across the province. On Sept. 11, OREC proudly announced a huge milestone for the city of Ottawa: the successful completion of the city's 1000th solar installation on the rooftop of Maurice Lapointe High School.
"We have shown that community ownership is possible and viable in Ottawa and we will continue to increase the accessibility and awareness of sustainable energy technologies throughout the city," says OREC President Dick Bakker about the achievement. "This project shows that change is happening in our own backyard and that many citizens are participating in the energy transition."
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson was on site at the project's launch to mark the occasion. "This is a monumental achievement for the city," he said, "and it shows a genuine desire on behalf of the entire community to move to a more sustainable, clean energy future."
OREC's activities have also attracted international attention. In early October, representatives from the Thai embassy in Ottawa approached the co-op with a request to visit some of their solar projects in order to see them first-hand. After viewing the 50 kilowatt facility at the site of the Third World Bazaar in Ottawa's rural community of Manotick, the Thai representatives were given a tour of OREC's largest project to date: a 400 kilowatt installation on the rooftop of Hovey Industries' manufacturing facilities in Gloucester.
Bakker was thrilled about that opportunity to connect. "Their request to see our projects demonstrates that interest in community ownership and the green economy is prominent on the global stage," he said.
All of these solar projects are entirely financed by residents through OREC's community-based business model, which includes RRSP- and TFSA-eligible investment options, earning the co-op's members guaranteed annual revenue for a fixed 20-year contract term under Ontario's Feed-in Tariff program.
OREC members come from all walks of life, including local politicians and candidates from all sides of the political spectrum at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels. Recently, former Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar became OREC's 450th member after speaking at this year's Green Energy Doors Open--an initiative aimed at demonstrating that Ontario is already on the path to building a 100 per cent clean, sustainable energy system.
"The future of our planet is at stake," said Dewar, "but by working together with initiatives like OREC, we can create a better future for our children and our community."
So what does the future hold for OREC? After having successfully raised more than $4 million in investments from people across Eastern Ontario during four securities offerings, OREC shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
"Our goal has always been to bring human value to the financial landscape," says OREC operations manager Janice Ashworth. "Over the next year, we plan to double our generation capacity with our new projects and continue to be a significant factor in renewable energy across Eastern Ontario."
Marc Viau is a Communications Associate with the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op.
The PERC thanks the above organizations for their support.
Thank you to Sustainable Eastern Ontario, the Community Foundation of Ottawa, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation for sponsoring the Winter 2015-2016 edition of the PEN.