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OSEA to study potential for Community Power in Newmarket
With the passage of the province’s new Green Energy Act, opportunities abound for everyone, from individuals to charities to municipalities, to generate both power and a profit, all the while protecting the planet. To explore these opportunities and develop a strategy for taking advantage of them, Newmarket – Tay Power has sought the help of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, which has for more than a decade assisted farmers, First Nations, religious organizations, homeowners and energy co-operatives develop clean, green energy projects.
While the new legislation requires local distribution companies such as Newmarket – Tay Power to encourage energy conservation, and to connect and distribute renewable energy, it does not oblige them to actually promote local generation. However, Paul Ferguson, the company’s president, says that could be a role the municipalities of Newmarket and Tay may want the utility to fill.
“Both municipalities have a particular interest in energy and they may want us to encourage people to develop small renewable energy projects. Should that be their mandate, I think we have more than a passive role to play,” he says.
Newmarket and Tay understand the value of local ownership. While many municipalities sold off their local distribution companies during the 90’s when the energy sector was deregulated, they opted to keep their hydro companies. It is this appreciation of local ownership - and the control and economic benefits that come with it - that makes community power particularly attractive.
In light of the Green Energy Act and its subsequent feed-in tariffs for renewable power, which are topped up for community owned energy projects, Newmarket –Tay Power is looking for ways of engaging its 30,000 customers. Already there has been some interest from a few residents and businesses in installing solar panels on their roofs, but OSEA will consult widely with local organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, as well as conduct focus groups to fully gauge the community’s appetite for producing green electricity.
At the same time, OSEA will look at the possibilities for the municipalities to produce renewable energy, which they are now allowed to do under the Green Energy Act.
The question for Mr. Ferguson, and to some extent for OSEA, is: Who will develop these potential projects? While residents, community groups and the municipalities themselves might be keen, financing, for instance, could still pose a barrier. “We want OSEA to look at the potential for community power and determine if there is something we can do to break down any barriers that might exist,” says Ferguson.
OSEA is also being asked to look at the advantages of Newmarket – Tay Power producing its own renewable energy, which again the new legislation permits. First, though, OSEA must determine what Newmarket – Tay Power’s “load” will be once it becomes responsible for connecting green electricity. Then the opportunities for producing renewables energy from solar, wind, hydro, and biogas can be analyzed to determine the financial gains that can be made.
However, it is not the just money that is the main motivation.
“Good environmental stewardship is part of our mandate and always has been, but now that the Green Energy Act has brought it to the forefront, we can focus more closely on the environment,” Ferguson says.
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 2:55:42 PM