By Kim Scott, OREC Board Member
Enough solar energy hits the Earth every minute to replace our use of fossil fuels globally for a year. With that kind of abundance, what could possibly be better than getting energy from the sun? The Ottawa Renewable Energy Cooperative is harnessing clean energy with several solar projects throughout Ottawa that support our city’s transition to a carbon free economy.
Our co-op, together with many others in Ontario, uses money raised by our member investors to build large solar power systems on housing cooperative rooftops, in farmer’s fields, and on local schools. The result is clean, localized power, new revenue streams for roof owners and investment returns paid to our members.
Renewable energy is one of the fastest growing sectors in North America, Europe and Asia. We’ve had a unique opportunity in Ontario through the Green Energy Act and the Feed in Tariff program to be global leaders in the transition to a carbon free economy. As members of Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-operative, we see the benefits of clean energy. By producing approximately 250 kW of clean energy, we are eliminating about 126 tons of carbon or planting 19,028 trees each year.
Given our recent success, we are very troubled by politicians who mislead the public about rising utility costs that are largely the result of utility’s plum pensions and overtime policies, billions spent rebuilding an aging power transmission system and tens of billions spent building or relocating gas plants. These costs are conveniently glossed over in campaign rhetoric; however, Navigant Consulting Ltd has shown that two thirds of the global adjustment charge on electricity bills is owing to payments made to nuclear and gas industries. By contrast, about 5% of a monthly hydro bill pays for all the renewable energy produced in Ontario. In other words, it is nuclear and gas that is largely responsible for hydro bill increases.
Solar systems are rapidly dropping in price, at least 50% in the past five years alone, and produce pure profit for at least half of their production life. Solar power reaches peak production on hot sunny days when demand spikes replacing coal or gas-fired electricity that costs about $1 a kilowatt-hour. That’s expensive power with large dose of bad air: meeting that demand with solar is cheaper and healthier.
Wind power is often best at night and therefore integrates well with solar. Hydropower and biomass or biogas can be dispatched anytime and supplement the intermittent nature of wind and solar. Relying on historical, single source power stations can leave us sitting in the dark when those increasingly frequent severe storms hit. We need more localized power generation, not more distant nuclear stations that are prone to breakdowns and take days – not minutes– to restart.
An established network of community owned renewable power systems in Ontario has created a mass wave of clean energy that is the envy of many jurisdictions thanks to the Green Energy Act and the Feed in Tariff program.
In Ontario, we’ve taken the bold move away from rigid, often dirty, and sometimes risky centralized power generation toward smarter, more localized and democratically driven systems of clean power that reduce costs and greenhouse gas. OREC membership is one way that everyone can contribute to amplifying this revolution but voting is an important step too. As Wayne Gretzky said, you have to skate to where the puck is headed. During this campaign and all subsequent campaigns, let’s not miss the net by backtracking on clean, abundant energy.
Author’s Bio – Kim Scott is a published author, trainer, facilitator, evaluator, solution oriented health professional and committed environmentalist who believes sustainability is possible through small, day to day personal action as well as through locally owned, democratically managed community processes.