The Ministry threw a fairly generous bone to the Community Power sector with its recommendations for FIT 2.0 (http://www.energy.gov.on.ca/en/fit-and-microfit-program/2-year-fit-review/). First, 10 per cent of remaining FIT contract capacity is to be set aside for local community and Aboriginal projects with greater than 50 per cent equity participation. And second, the points system, which will “prioritize projects” according to a points system where 15% or greater community/aboriginal equity ownership score 3 points – and projects need at least one point to get a contract. (Project readiness is likely the easy 2 points to get.)
How the OPA determines what “prioritization” means, and how it is done, will be a big part of what determines just how strong an incentive developers now have to engage community co-ops, aboriginal groups, or hospitals/schools.
Note the definition of a “Local Community Project: A co-op with a minimum equity participation of 15 per cent and a minimum participation level of 50 property owners in a municipality where the FIT Project is located.” ***This is a radically new notion of what constitutes a “community” under OPA rules, and could change the game substantially.*** It used to be that any individual resident, NFP, or charity in Ontario was a “community”. It's not entirely clear, but is certainly appears that this may no longer be the case.
If that's the case, how will this new understanding affect already submitted applications? Note the priority points are to be given where a community group is the applicant – so is it even possible for a developer to obtain these points by “selling” 15% of their project to a co-op? (And how likely is it they will?) Will existing “community” projects lose their adder (and be subject to higher security payments) if they’re not an eligible co-op?
And what about the CEPP (www.communityenergyprogram.ca)? Will individuals and NFPs still be eligible? Will grants be terminated? Will co-ops with fewer than 50 members be restricted to partial grants until they qualify?
Anyone with news on this is encouraged to share!
There are real opportunities here, surely, especially with regard to developers ready to partner with community groups to get hold of that 10% of remaining contract capacity. That’s a fairly substantial portion, and we know it’s tough for community groups to gather the capital for larger projects - so this 10% may become the more “distributed” part of the program. (To date, it appears community and aboriginal groups together have submitted over 3500MW, out of a total of 21,287MW of applications – or about 16% of the total applications submitted. But that includes individuals.)
I work with Local Initiative for Future Energy Co-op (www.lifecoop.ca) on a 2MW wind project near Kitchener; the 10% rule likely bodes well for us getting a contract from OPA, and we welcome new members. LIFE may also be open to exploring other partnership opportunities (in smaller wind or solar FIT projects); we have over 100 members eager for a chance to invest in a renewable energy project. Note that most of LIFE’s members are in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo – and that matters. CREW (www.crewzone.ca) is also working on starting an urban solar co-op in Kitchener-Waterloo.
There are lots of other co-ops out there (or trying to start up). If you’re looking to talk with your local co-op, give me a shout and I’ll try to connect you. If you want help in setting one up, I am available for consulting work, or you can look to:
www.ontario-sea.org (Harry French, Community Power Services Group)
www.coopzone.ca (has a list of co-op developers, myself among them)
www.trec.on.ca (TREC has long been a leader in the Renewable Energy Co-op Sector)
At any rate, I’d say it’s time for developers to start taking community power seriously.