Over the past decade, community-owned projects have become an important feature of Ontario’s renewable energy landscape. Co-operatives, which have proven an effective ownership model for community-based energy planning, represent a growing sector in Ontario, engaging thousands of citizens and communities across the province. These include for-profit co-ops, which raise funds through share offerings, and not-for-profit co-ops, which raise funds through bond offerings. To date, roughly 99% of community power projects in Ontario are solar.
Community power has been supported through several mechanisms since the adoption of the GEA, including price adders, priority points in the FIT program, contract capacity set-asides (CCSAs) for community projects, and the Community Energy Partnership Program (CEPP). In spite of these incentives, relatively few co-ops have been awarded FIT contracts to date. According to community power proponents, the FIT program and CEPP rules and timelines have been “based on the development pattern of commercial participants and do not respect the development pattern of community power groups”.
Going forward, community projects can find funding through the new Energy Partnerships Program. In addition, while a recent directive by the Minister of Energy has removed co-operative ownership as criteria for receiving FIT priority points, one-third of CCSAs, representing 2/3 of the total FIT procurement, will be awarded to projects with 50% equity participation.
Some notable examples of Ontario-based community power projects in operation include: