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The Solar City Co-operative Initiative: Making Sun Part of the Community in Kitchener/Waterloo

The Solar City Co-operative Initiative: Making Sun Part of the Community in Kitchener/Waterloo 

Mümtaz Derya Tarhan, The Community Power Report 
April 25, 2012


The idea is rather simple.
Ontario has a feed-in-tarriff (FIT) program that offers 20-year contracts to renewable energy generators with a guaranteed return-on-investment. Besides, there are numerous vacant rooftops in Ontario’s Kitchener/Waterloo region. So, install a solar panel on a rooftop and get a reasonable return on your investment. Simple.

But a group of 25 enthusiastic individuals came together last Wednesday in Kitchener City Hall to discuss how to do this, in their own words, in a ‘community’ manner.


The Solar City Co-op Initiative (SCCI), a new off-shoot of Community Renewable Energy Waterloo (CREW), is led by CREW’s President, Shane Mulligan, and its former President and current Policy Director, Derek Satnik. The initiative has held a number of meetings aimed at building on the knowledge and experience in CREW, and combining this with the public support for renewable power and public interest in participating financially in RE projects.
At this latest meeting, the initiative reached its first major goal: the milestone of 20 advance members contributing $100 each, for a total commitment of $2,000. With this solid expression of interest, the steering committee will proceed to incorporating a new co-operative that can take advantage of opportunities to enable communities to invest in their own local solar projects, either alone or in partnership with developers. CREW will continue to enable advance members to join up until the Co-op is fully incorporated. For now, the steering committee is keen to hear from individuals who may wish to volunteer as Incorporators and Board Members. If you are interested in volunteering or paying $100 for an advance membership spot, please get in contact with Shane Mulligan (shane@crewzone.ca).

The initial idea for the SCCI was formed in late 2011, while Ontario’s FIT program was in review. During this period of uncertainty, the initial steering committee remained active in the community looking for members, project partners and available rooftops. They organized meetings and promoted the idea that the environmental transformation taking place in Ontario must be led by ordinary people, just as in Denmark and Germany who are now leaders in the global renewable energy scene.

The draft of the new FIT rules for Ontario are now published and they feature very positive aspects for the community power sector -and especially for co-operatives in Ontario. The draft rules include a 10% capacity allocation for community projects and a new points system prioritizing renewable energy co-operatives. The finalized version of the new FIT rules will be announced on May 9th 2012, but it is highly likely that co-operatives will benefit greatly from the new paradigm. For a detailed explanation of how the new FIT rules may benefit renewable energy co-operatives in Ontario, please read Shane Mulligan’s latest article and our recent post.

Overall, the Solar City Co-operative comes to life in a very timely manner. And the message sent by the initial members are clear: they want cleaner electricity, a better way to invest their savings, and their efforts are to fuel the local economy and future community-based initiatives.

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