Renewable energy might give some Ottawa citizens’ financial portfolios a charge if Ottawa Renewable Energy Cooperative is successful in making solar power into a long-term investment.
Photograph by: Pat McGrath , Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — Renewable energy might give some Ottawa citizens’ financial portfolios a charge if an Ottawa co-operative is successful in making solar power into a long-term investment.
The idea is simple: Build solar panels on top of buildings in the Ottawa area and sell the resulting energy back to the provincial power authority. The money from the province will be shared among the project’s investors over the 20-year life of the contract.
But to build the solar panels and sign the deal with the agency, the Ottawa Renewable Energy Cooperative needs to raise $500,000 by August 27. At a meeting in downtown Ottawa on Tuesday night, board members made their pitch to local residents for investment in the city’s green future.
Almost 100 people have already paid the co-op’s initial membership fee, said board member Janice Ashworth, and those members have bought shares in the project that amount to around three-fifths of the organization’s goal.
“Some people are predisposed to being interested in sustainable projects,” she said. “But some of our backers are looking for diversification in their investment portfolios. Both groups like to know that the numbers are there but it also has a social value.”
The current price of solar energy is much higher than that of energy from traditional sources such as fossil fuels. But the investment is sound, Ashworth said, because the contract the cooperative would sign with the power generating authority will lock in at one price for the 20 years thanks to Ontario’s Green Energy Act.
The group’s financial projections foresee a five per cent dividend over the length of the contract, as well as a return on the initial investment every year after five years. This gives the investment predictability in a time of market turmoil, Ashworth said.
“It’s a really great way of leveraging financial support for renewable energy,” she said.
The fund will also be RRSP eligible, meaning those with self-directed retirement plans can put shares in
the solar project in their RRSP accounts.
Charles Hodgson, who bought shares in the co-op in July, said some of his friends have been skeptical about the investment.
“There’s no question this is a non-conventional investment,” said Hodgson, who volunteers with Ecology Ottawa. “I jumped at it because of the social-good aspect. But people give charitable donations all the time, and this isn’t charity. You can make your money back while doing good in the community.”
If the group raises enough funds, the first solar panels will be built on the roofs of four Ottawa housing co-ops in the fall with the help of local energy developer Visio Energy. The group also has plans for another solar array on top of a large commercial building.
The exact locations are secret, Ashworth said, until the co-op reaches its fundraising goal.
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Source: The Ottawa Citizen