Letter from the President: Launching CoEnergy Co-operative

Dec 19, 2018 | Advocacy, News

Dear OREC members and supporters,

I would like to begin by wishing you all a happy holiday season, and hope you have a healthy and productive new year.

Since the incorporation of the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-operative in 2010, our membership has changed the way that energy has been produced in Eastern Ontario. Operating within the renewable energy space and the procurement programs that have driven the industry in Ontario, OREC has developed 2.5 MW of community-owned solar assets, with a value of $8 million.

Many of us at OREC, including the staff and many directors, have been searching and pressing legislators for ways to offer a broader range of sustainability services through a co-op business model. There is a desire to do more, while continuing to pursue the objectives that have led to OREC’s community-driven success.

The Ontario Co-op Act limits renewable energy co-operatives like OREC to the generation and sale of electricity produced by renewable sources. With this reality, along with the end of the Green Energy Act and its Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program, the search for alternatives intensified.

This has led the creation of CoEnergy Ontario Co-operative Inc., a recently incorporated co-op. CoEnergy is a separate entity from OREC, which will seek to build and expand upon the work that OREC has accomplished thus far.

CoEnergy will aim to provide low carbon and other clean energy products and services to its members. CoEnergy is a multi-class co-op, with community members and consumer members. Community members will own and manage the Co-op’s assets through social investment opportunities, very similar to how OREC operates. These members can be living anywhere in Canada. Consumer members will be those using the Co-op’s services, focusing on projects based in Eastern Ontario and West Québec.

CoEnergy will seek to develop energy efficiency and renewable energy projects with the aim of expanding the adoption of low carbon energy technologies and services in Eastern Ontario and West Québec.

Description

The CoEnergy Co-operative provides low carbon and other clean energy products and services to its members while at the same time allowing them to own and operate the business. CoEnergy is an example of how cooperatives can both generate and distribute wealth in a democratically-owned economy.  CoEnergy is a multi-class co-op with two classes of membership – consumer and community members. Consumer members use the Co-op’s energy services. Community members own and manage the Co-op’s assets.

The focus of CoEnergy will be to expand the adoption of sustainable low carbon energy technologies and services in Eastern Ontario and West Quebec, and to foster local economic development and energy democracy.  Members in the region will have more choice and control over the energy they use, and all members will be able to participate in the financing and ownership of energy generation, energy distribution, and energy saving projects in the commercial, institutional, and residential sectors.

Projects like this one, where the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op was able to provide a loan to make the initiative possible, are what CoEnergy Co-operative hopes to accomplish. Pursuing deep energy retrofits with Minto Skating Club and other recreational facilities will ensure that social benefits are realized in addition to environmental and local economic milestones. (Video credit: Hydro Ottawa)

Vision

CoEnergy envisions a future in which:

  • Residents, institutions, and businesses in Eastern Ontario and West Quebec have more choice and control over the energy they use
  • Property owners in the region reduce operating costs, improve occupant well-being, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Climate change and environmental impacts in the region are mitigated through energy conservation and clean energy generation.
  • More low carbon jobs are created in the region resulting in local economic development.
  • CoEnergy’s co-operative financing and ownership business model demonstrates how a more democratic local economy enhances wealth generation and distribution, as well as social, and environmental vibrancy and performance.
  • Individuals in the region and elsewhere have the opportunity to democratically influence, own and manage clean energy generation and use.

Mission

CoEnergy’s mission is to enable development of a low carbon economy in Eastern Ontario and West Quebec using a democratic business model that generates wealth, jobs, and other social and environmental benefits through the ownership and management of energy.

This video, made by our friends at The Atmospheric Fund outlines the immense positive impact that energy efficiency retrofits can have for existing buildings.

Goals

  • Social: Empowerpeople to choose and own the energy used in their community.
  • Economic: Create low carbon jobs and economic development locally.
  • Environmental: Minimize energy use, GHG emissions and pollution in the community through efficiency and conservation while meeting the residual energy demand in the most environmentally sustainable way. 
  • Financial: Provide fair returns annually to members. Increase accessibility to sustainable investments options.
  • Education and Advocacy: Increase awareness and supportive policy climates regarding sustainable energy infrastructure.

While CoEnergy is still in its stages of early development, it will receive incubation support from OREC in the form of volunteer hours, staff time, and expertise. The Board of Directors for the two organizations will have a great deal of overlap in the first year of CoEnergy’s existence, until CoEnergy holds its first Annual General Meeting, at which time new Directors can be elected by its membership.  CoEnergy will pay for its share of OREC staff, thereby reducing the overhead costs of OREC (this will be done through a contract arrangement, at market rates).

The aim is to transition new projects, including solar projects, to be negotiated and carried out by CoEnergy. All completed projects, as well as those in development, will continue to be owned by the members of OREC.

We expect that the profitability of OREC will rise for four distinct reasons

  • The overhead costs of OREC will drop as CoEnergy will pay for their share of OREC staff;
  • OREC will cease work on project development as CoEnergy takes on this role, instead OREC will focus its efforts on portfolio efficiency;
  • With the existing backlog of new projects under construction and development, OREC will more than double its portfolio of operating assets (but with a declining overhead cost – point 1).
  • As capital is returned, the dividend percent on the declining balance of capital will increase.

On behalf of the Board and staff of CoEnergy, I would like to extend the invitation to all OREC members, as well as family, friends, neighbours and colleagues, to join CoEnergy. For all existing OREC members, the membership fee will be taken care of by CoEnergy. For all others, there is a one-time $50 membership fee.

We also welcome any questions, comments, or concerns on anything mentioned above. Please send all inquiries to info@orec.ca.

We are currently in the process of putting together a website and other resources for CoEnergy. For now, we invite all to sign up for the CoEnergy newsletter, so that you can be the first to know as things move forward.

Cooperatively yours,

Dick Bakker
President, Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-operative