Exploring Alberta’s Energy Future

Earlier this month, Alberta Solar Cooperative (ASC) directors attended an Energy Futures Lab workshop in Calgary, which was hosted at TELUS Spark. The attendees of this event were people who identify as innovators and influencers in Alberta’s energy system.

Gerardo Marquez, one of the founding members of ASC, is an Energy Futures Fellow. Gerardo is a champion for community energy and a connector in the Alberta’s energy space.

This highly collaborative workshop which was facilitated by Energy Futures Fellows, engaged all attendees in answering:

“How can Alberta’s leadership position in today’s energy system serve as a platform for transitioning to the energy system that the future requires of us?”

An open space style of session allowed for multiple conversations to be had that addressed diverse topics on Alberta’s energy system — from energy for transportation through to training (and re-training) of workers in our energy sector and in a lower carbon economy. Seth Leon and Colin Rioux of ASC were invited to attend, contribute, and learn from those conversations.

In answering the above question posed by Energy Futures Lab, ASC believes that accelerating our energy economy towards a lower carbon system can strengthen Alberta’s energy leadership position. We believe a new energy economy can only be achieved through collaboration. This is why EFL is exploring what that energy system of the future looks like for Alberta. EFL is currently made up of Fellows from diverse backgrounds who work in all areas of the energy industry; be it in think tanks, co-operatives, or large oil companies.

Our co-op is also formed on the principles of co-operation and collaboration. We are excited to participate in workshops and discussions that help us understand how we can provide Albertans with opportunities to participate in the creation of Alberta’s future energy system.

We are working hard to develop an investment platform where any Albertan can invest in RRSP and TFSA eligible renewable energy and efficiency opportunities as well as benefit from those returns.

We welcome discussions with communities, municipalities, agencies, energy developers, and any innovator and influencer that wants to collaborate with us to bring these energy opportunities to Albertans.

Let’s leverage our existing energy leadership and start positioning Alberta as an energy leader for the future.

Seth and Gerardo in the bottom right of the frame at TELUS Spark

Seth and Gerardo in the bottom right of the frame at TELUS Spark

2016 Alberta Climate Summit Recap

Alberta Solar Cooperative (ASC) directors and allies attended the 2016 Alberta Climate Summit titled “Mapping the pathway to Alberta’s low-carbon future”, which was organized by the Pembina Institute.

Over 500 participants attended the event, including more than 30 panelists, a majority of which travelled from outside of Alberta. The summit’s opening address from Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment & Parks, provided attendees with a status update on what the government has achieved to date on its Climate Leadership Plan. She also described what will be unfolding in the near term, including the formation of Energy Efficiency Alberta (the agency tasked with developing community-scale renewable energy programs). 

One recurring message of the summit was that fighting climate change is a shared responsibility. Government, businesses, and Albertans all have a role in this and are called be part of the solution in the transition to a lower carbon economy in Alberta. The importance of a collaborative approach was repeated over and over by panelists and those representing government, companies, and communities. 

The summit reaffirmed the relevance of our cooperative and a growing need for alternative funding approaches to renewable energy development in the province. The breakout sessions on utility-scale and community-owned renewables reinforced that direct economic participation in community-scale renewables is possible, and that Alberta communities are already exploring ways to fund renewables themselves. Our First Nations are looking to renewable energy as a tool for improving the economy and prosperity of their communities and are also exploring co-operative models of ownership. Panelists and presenters kept highlighting the need for innovation funds and the importance of clean-tech funding. 

Overall, the summit was a positive experience with a healthy balance of optimism and realism. We are hearing that more and more players in Alberta’s energy economy agree on the need for action. We feel that the government is listening to our feedback and addressing the need for policy that will help direct the energy and actions of all who want to participate in this challenging opportunity.

We will make it possible for Albertans to directly participate in Alberta’s renewable energy transition, through RRSP and TFSA eligible member-investments.

We were happy to reconnect with existing supporters and partners, and also make new connections. We hope to develop these relationships, using collaboration and co-operation in answering Alberta’s call to climate action.

To learn more about the summit and view recordings of the presentations and panel discussions, visit the Pembina Institute’s Twitter feed here.

Co-op Update

Over the last few months, Alberta Solar Cooperative (ASC) has been working hard to develop the model for cooperatively owned solar projects in Alberta.

In order for us to launch our first project, we need to ensure that the environment and landscape (electricity system and government policies) are favourable for large-scale community owned projects. Therefore, we have been closely monitoring the renewable energy landscape being painted by Alberta's government, electricity system operator, and the vast number of stakeholders that will inform Alberta’s renewable energy future and define its opportunity.

ASC aims to help define community energy in Alberta — where Albertans own, participate and benefit in the development of Alberta’s renewable resources. We have been working in the background to build the capacity and relationships necessary to provide Albertans with such opportunities and benefits.

Since our crowdfunding campaign and incorporation in February of this year, we've made progress on a number of initiatives. It’s through the dedication of our volunteer board and working teams, and the support of people inspired by our leadership, that we’ve been able to:

  • Collaborate with a rural Alberta municipality to host of our first solar farm and initiate negotiations with them on buying our green power on a long term basis

  • Improve our governance, strengthen our board, and attract expertise and energy

  • Engage a variety of future partners in community energy projects and initiatives

  • Engage government entities recently tasked with Alberta’s renewable energy planning, including:

    • The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), in charge of Alberta’s Renewable Energy Plan (REP)

    • Alberta’s Energy Efficiency and Community Energy panel, tasked with engaging with Albertans to promote, design and deliver programs that include development of small scale energy systems in Alberta.

In addition to that, while the province has been working on implementing its climate leadership plan, ASC has been building its capacity and formalizing the co-op’s strategy.

 

Where are we at now?

The government has recently formed Energy Efficiency Alberta (EEA) to design programs that will provide the most impact in reducing Alberta’s GHG while stimulating renewable energy and community economic development. 

While provincial-wide plans for a lower carbon future are developed and rolled out by our government, we will continue to develop our capacity and roll out plans that will be a driver of renewable energy through RRSP and TFSA eligible investments for its members. 

We have made inroads with evaluating the feasibility of developing a co-operatively owned solar farm in partnership with Starland County.

Our formal submission to the Energy Efficiency and Community Energy panel later this month will outline the challenges we have been working to overcome as we truth tests the viability of community scale renewable energy.

The ASC will continue to engage decision makers and strategic partners to position itself to be a solution for Alberta and Albertans. In cooperation, we are redefining Alberta’s energy leadership.