Building Community and Building Power: HHEAT Conference Focuses on Renewable Energy Co-operatives
The Hamilton Halton Renewable Energy Action Team (HHEAT) hosted the ”Building Community Power CO-OPperatively: A Renewable Energy Summit” on June 10th at Burlington’s beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens.
|Volunteers from the conference (Source: HHEAT)|
Despite being held indoors on a beautiful summer day, the conference was nevertheless attended by an engaged crowd of nearly a hundred people. Visitors were welcomed by kind volunteers and stands set by community power organizations, renewable energy co-operatives and renewable energy service providers. This area provided a great opportunity for learning more about these organizations, meeting professionals and other interested individuals, and also just for having a great conversation on a lovely Sunday afternoon.
The first presentation was delivered by Graham Flint, an energy specialist from HHEAT, who provided general information about his organization and the benefits of cooperatively-owned renewable energy projects. He emphasized that renewable energy co-operatives have a strong local economic impact, but what is even more important in his opinion was that they change the way we look at energy generation and consumption. Through citizen involvement and co-operation, renewable energy co-operatives ignite social and behavioural transformation.
The cases of Germany and Denmark seem to prove him right. Germany is a global leader in renewable energy and community power with almost 25% of its electricity generated from renewable sources, and 50% of renewable energy generation is community-owned. 430 new energy cooperatives were formed since 2006 in Germany, and of the 250 new German cooperatives in 2011, 158 were energy co-operatives. Meanwhile, 80% of wind power generated in Denmark, a global leader in wind technology and generation, is cooperatively-owned.
|The Jam-Packed Conference Hall|
Harry French from Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) also presented at the conference and informed participants about valuable resources for renewable energy co-operatives that are in place in Ontario. Besides resources that exist outside of the community, he encouraged participants to pay attention to what he deems to be the most important resource for renewable energy co-operatives: Building relationships within the community.
There is an enormous room for growth for renewable energy co-operatives in Ontario, and what will drive this sector forward is knowledge and experience sharing; communicating with the public and government agencies; and building solidarity within the sector. This is exactly what HHEAT aimed for with this conference, and participants definitely left the venue with a greater awareness and much needed inspiration to take action.
HHEAT also has numerous valuable resources on their website for developing and managing renewable energy co-operatives within Hamilton/Halton region and beyond.