It has been a long and challenging journey for our solar co-operative since our inception in late 2015. Over the last three years, we navigated through an energy landscape in Alberta, which was lacking the right policies and infrastructure in place to welcome community investment in renewables. But we chose to persevere and dive into policy development work instead, to help us get closer to our mission and goal of developing Alberta’s first community-owned solar farm. After countless engagement sessions with the government and Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) as well as preparing a detailed submission to Alberta Energy in response to its call for engagement on Community Energy policy development, we feel like our “dream” is now finally attainable.
The Government of Alberta just announced that they will be investing $200 million in Climate Leadership Plan funds over 20 years to launch a new Community Generation Program! Over the coming months, the province in partnership with Energy Efficiency Alberta and the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre will undertake capacity-building efforts to help communities prepare to participate in the program before it launches in fall 2019.
This new Community Generation program will make it easier for communities to invest in renewable energy projects and our cooperative model is the perfect match for this, particularly given the new Community Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) Tax Credit for Albertans. Newly developed legislation (Investing in a Diversified Alberta Economy Act) will allow ASC and other cooperatives that are developing social impact initiatives to offer a 30% tax credit for investors. We are currently working on all of the necessary processes to ensure that our investors can take full advantage of this tax credit.
Also, more exciting news for our co-op is that we were awarded a generous grant from Energy Efficiency Alberta through the Community Energy Capacity Building (CECB) Program to help develop our co-op, work on our investment model and further our mission. Stay tuned for more details on what we have been working on in our next blog post!
About the Community Generation Program
The initiative will support the installation of locally generated electricity projects. It will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, spur investment, diversify local economies and support local jobs.
Community generation will enable neighbours, community groups, municipalities, agricultural societies, rural and urban co-ops, universities, schools, Indigenous communities and other groups to partner on small-scale renewable energy projects such a wind, biomass, hydro or solar that provide community benefits.
Program applicants must demonstrate community benefits such as revenue from electricity production, local jobs, training opportunities, new social programs or new infrastructure. For example, a co-op could partner with a company to build a solar farm that generates revenue by selling electricity to the grid.
The program will support a “contract for difference” model that guarantees a rate of return for electricity production over the long term – locking in a rate for generators. The $200-million fund will facilitate investment in community-scale renewable energy projects by guaranteeing the price they receive for the power they produce.
Up to $50 million from the fund will be dedicated to supporting community generation projects in areas affected by the phase-out of coal-fired electricity.
“The future is not found – it’s made. Albertans want to be leaders in renewable energy and community generation will ensure local participation and benefits. This program opens doors to exciting new small-scale projects while supporting communities as they seek sustainable ways to meet their energy needs.”
Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks and Minister responsible for the Climate Change Office