Putting power in the hands of communities
Published on November 27, 2018 by Will McGlynn
The ACCA, in partnership with Rural Municipalities of Alberta and members EQUS REA and Alberta Federation of Rural Electrification Associations (AFREA), joined the Alberta Government to announce a new $200m community generation investment of which co-operatives stand to play a vital role for communities to develop sustainable renewable energy projects, create jobs and diversify local economies.
So what is ‘Community Generation’?
Community generation refers to renewable and alternative energy that is distribution system-connected and provides benefits to communities. Community generation allows communities and citizens to directly participate in energy projects through full or partial ownership of the projects. Participation in community generation projects gives Albertans the ability to access renewable energy and generate revenue by selling electricity to the grid.
For more information about this announcement please read the press release below or visit the Community Generation Online Resource Hub ahead of program applications opening on January 14, 2019.
“The province is making it easier for communities to develop their own renewable energy projects.
In response to the growing demand for renewable energy, the Government of Alberta is investing $200 million in Climate Leadership Plan funds over 20 years to launch a new Community Generation Program. The initiative will support the installation of locally generated electricity projects. It will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, spur investment, diversify local economies and support local jobs.
Community generation enables neighbours, community groups, municipalities, agricultural societies, rural and urban co-ops, universities, schools, Indigenous communities and other groups to partner on small-scale renewable energy projects such a wind, biomass, hydro or solar that provide community benefits.
“The future is not found – it’s made. Albertans want to be leaders in renewable energy and community generation will ensure local participation and benefits. This program opens doors to exciting new small-scale projects while supporting communities as they seek sustainable ways to meet their energy needs.”
Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks and Minister responsible for the Climate Change Office
Program applicants must demonstrate community benefits such as revenue from electricity production, local jobs, training opportunities, new social programs or new infrastructure. For example, a co-op could partner with a company to build a solar farm that generates revenue while providing power to members.
“Rural Albertans always pull together, whether during harvest, calving or getting energy onto farms and ranches. Now, neighbours can partner to produce their own energy. This program has the greatest potential in rural Alberta, where rural communities have the land and the experience to get it done.”
Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry
The program will support a “contract for difference” model that guarantees a rate of return for electricity production over the long term – locking in a rate for generators. The $200-million fund will facilitate investment in community-scale renewable energy projects by guaranteeing the price they receive for the power they produce. Up to $50 million from the fund will be dedicated to supporting community generation projects in areas affected by the phase-out of coal-fired electricity.
“Rural Albertans are known for being self-sufficient, and we believe that more opportunities that enable Alberta’s rural areas to invest in community only strengthen our local communities. Community generation in renewable energy provides local investment and increases opportunities to build local partnerships. We look forward to working collaboratively with the Government of Alberta and other organizations in the development of this innovative program.”
Al Kemmere, president, Rural Municipalities of Alberta
“Rural cooperatives have proudly distributed electricity to our members for generations. We are excited with the new opportunities the Government of Alberta is creating through community generation while at the same time working to maintain the lowest possible costs to Albertans. These important initiatives will help REAs to diversify and contribute to our long-term success. We look forward to engaging constructively with the province, to ensure the program details create meaningful opportunities for rural Albertans who own their own utilities.”
Dan Astner, president, Alberta Federation of Rural Electrification Associations (AFREA)
“As the largest member-owned utility in Canada, we see small-scale community generation as a progressive step forward for rural Alberta. EQUS sees a real opportunity to work with our local municipalities and developers to partner on projects that will benefit the rural communities, including EQUS’ members. We commend the government for taking this important step forward for rural Alberta, and we look forward to providing our expertise into the program details.”
Patricia Bourne, CEO, EQUS
“Alberta’s 500 member-owned cooperatives and credit unions consistently invest millions back into the communities they serve. Today’s announcement makes it easier for communities to invest in sustainable projects and the cooperative model is a great match for this, particularly given the new Community Economic Development Corporation tax credit. We are pleased that the Alberta government realizes that community ownership continues to build strong communities, and are excited to see the development of new and existing renewable energy cooperatives that will work as hard for Albertans as Albertans work for this province.”
Michele Aasgard, executive director, Alberta Community and Co-operative Association
In partnership with Energy Efficiency Alberta and the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre, the province will undertake capacity-building efforts over the coming months to help communities prepare to participate in the program before it launches in fall 2019. This work will include:
- Open houses in a dozen communities in early 2019.
- An online resource hub featuring handbooks, community generation case studies, small-scale renewable energy fact sheets and more.
Community generation supports Alberta’s target of 30 per cent renewable electricity by 2030 by helping Alberta transition to an electricity system that is cleaner, reliable and more sustainable. The Community Generation Program is made possible by Alberta’s Small-scale Generation Regulation, which outlines new rules to enable small-scale and community projects, including definitions, setup and operation. These rules also help reduce administrative and financial barriers for generators.”