On February 16, 2016, over 80 community stakeholders came together in Calgary to discuss community-owned renewable energy (RE) at the Alberta Community Energy Workshop. Hosted by the Pembina Institute, Calgary Economic Development, TREC, and People Power Planet, the aim of the workshop was to build excitement around community renewable energy, to foster connections between those in attendance, and to begin a letter campaign encouraging change at the policy level. Those attending the workshop showed the broad interest that Albertans have in Community RE – participants included academics from universities, individuals from non-profits, energy retailers, First Nations representatives, plus many politicians and civil servants from the provincial government.
The workshop identified three major barriers to community-owed RE development in Alberta: price stability, financing, and local capacity. Despite these barriers, renewable energy being driven and created by the community isn’t just a theory, it’s a practice with viable examples throughout our province. The town of Devon has taken a leadership role in its own energy production to combat the unstable costs of natural gas. By joining the forces of citizens, civil servants, and the provincial government, the town has undertaken a project that will see the installation of 48,000 solar panels. Through this renewable energy program, Devon has negotiated stable electricity prices for the next 30 years, with the added benefit of leaving a significantly smaller carbon footprint compared to their current natural gas and coal-based systems.
Vulcan is also leading the way by developing the Vulcan Solar Park, the first project of its kind in Canada. Situated on privately owned land, this project will have an enormous impact on energy in Alberta, with the ability to power over 8500 Alberta homes using clean energy. The benefits for Vulcan don’t stop with a lower carbon footprint or lower energy prices; there is also a focus on community-building and education. With a focus on keeping the The Solar Park aesthetically pleasing, it’s being developed into a functional park, with the solar modules including information about solar energy to help educate visitors. By combining the solar farm with a new community green space, those living in Vulcan will also benefit from increased capacity for tourism and community-building.
A group of Calgarians have launched the Alberta Solar Co-op, which aims to take on the rising demand for renewable and community-driven energy options. Their intention is to a solar farmed owned solely by Albertans. This will be a significant step towards making Alberta’s energy greener by putting enough energy to power 400 homes onto the grid. The aim is to give individuals the opportunity to invest in and have ownership of renewable energy – to encourage renewable energy development in Alberta but also share in revenue created by the project.
Community-owned RE has benefits beyond decreasing carbon footprints and making power more affordable. Citizens have the ability to be directly involved in the energy systems their cities and provinces are developing. Local energy projects also provide ongoing job opportunities through the creation, development, installation, and maintenance of the modules and structures. If you want to learn more or build on the excitement from the February meeting, see below for ways to get involved!
More Information on Community Owned Renewable Energy
Devon Dispatch Article on Solar Power
Prairie Post Article on the Solar Park Development
A brief history of Albert’as Solar Industry from the National Observer
You can check out all the presentations from The Alberta Community Energy Workshop
Become a Member of SPARK – The Alberta Renewable Energy Cooperative
Written by Chelsea Detheridge, with support and resources from Barend Dronkers of the Pembina Institute.