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As Alberta phases out coal-fired electricity production, it’s creating opportunities for all Albertans to participate in an energy transformation.

The emergence of local community-owned energy production as part of a switch to more renewable power generation provides consumers far greater influence over the definition, management and execution of a wind, solar, geothermal or biomass project.

There are significant benefits from community ownership of renewable energy production for families, businesses, communities and the economy. It can turn energy infrastructure — typically considered a liability by local communities — into an asset with financial and social benefits.

Calgary Economic Development recently co-hosted the Alberta Community Energy workshop with Pembina Institute that included more than 80 stakeholders from rural, municipal and provincial governments, economic development organizations, First Nations, non-governmental organizations, post-secondary institutions and students.

The conversation quickly turned to why would a community team want to take this on? The answers came easy:

  • Renewable energy can add to household income and strengthen the balance sheet for a family by investing in an energy co-op, a community solar garden or buying shares in a community economic development investment fund.
  • Communities retain economic benefits as well. Renewable energy projects can build capacity for further community economic development by retaining and reinvesting capital, training local labour and inspiring entrepreneurship.
  • With a direct stake in their energy production, people are more likely to increase their energy literacy.
  • Community ownership can also help to foster long-term social license for renewable energy. It also helps to diversify employment opportunities by developing the skills and trades needed to plan, install and maintain the systems.

Not every community has the desire or capacity to develop a renewable energy project but there are options – a for-profit or not-for-profit business model, for example – for those that do.

Project leadership for can come from members of the community, associations, entrepreneurs, businesses, school boards, municipalities or post-secondary institutions. A diverse set of skills are required for business planning, financial modelling, legal expertise and sales and marketing to acquire funds, increase membership and encourage community involvement.

There are numerous local opportunities; for example:

  • Lubicon Solar has 20-kilowatt solar project that provides clean, affordable electricity to a First Nation community while offering opportunities to train people in energy jobs.
  • Green Acres is the largest solar project in Alberta two megawatts of installed solar energy capacity with a local Hutterite community.
  • The towns of Devon and Vulcan have solar projects initiated by local governments but also involve a substantial community member consultation and crowd-funding for elements of the project.
  • The Town of Banff offers citizens incentives for renewable power and is conducting research into community energy projects.

Participants in the workshop encouraged Albertans to understand their choices and take an active role in their energy future.

Community-owned renewable energy projects are a way to get involved and learn about energy production alongside your neighbours. In Calgary, a local group has launched a crowd-funding campaign for Alberta Solar Co-op where people can learn more about community energy ownership from folks just like them.


Megan Zimmerman is Business Development Manager for Technology and Renewable Energy at Calgary Economic Development. Barend Dronkers is a consultant focused on community-based sustainability projects for Pembina Institute.

 

- See more at: http://www.calgaryeconomicdevelopment.com/media/article/2016/community-energy-electricity-transformer#sthash.ct3HB6aF.dpuf






 

Discussion

Megan Zimmerman Profile Picture

BY Megan Zimmerman

Business Development Manager, Energy, Green Economy & Technology

Trade, Investment & Attraction

CONNECT:

Megan joined the Communications team in 2007 and moved to business development for clean tech and renewable energy in 2014. She works to connect a diverse stakeholder group and promote innovation. She is a fellow with Energy Futures Lab accelerating a green economy in Alberta.

Additional Credits:
Barend Dronkers

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