What is a Renewable Energy Co-operative?
When Ontario adopted the Green Energy and Economy Act in 2009, the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program was introduced which expanded the opportunities for renewable energy. The vision of the IESO is to allow communities and municipalities the opportunity to develop renewable energy projects as owners and operators.
Ontario has consequently introduced a new vehicle for such community involvement in the form of the Renewable Energy Co-operative. The Renewable energy Co-op is in many ways similar to the regular Ontario Co-op with some exception:
- The business of the co operative is limited to generating and selling electricity;
- The co operative is not required to conduct 50% of its business with members;
- The surplus of the co operative is to be distributed to members in accordance with the by-laws (rather than in proportion to the business they do with the co op).
Members of Renewable Energy Co-op's are encouraged to actively participate in the Co-op’s life and have a number of rights and responsibilities. They approve bylaws and changes to bylaws; they elect directors to the board, and accept financial statements. Depending on the Co-op's governance structure they may also be part of the Co-op's committees and make suggestions for future projects and support for their community.
All members have one vote, whether they own preference shares or not.
Co-operatives work under these internationally adopted guiding principles:
In order to raise funds for the participation in renewable energy projects, Co-op's may issue bonds (mostly non-share, non-profit Co-op's) or sell preference shares (for-profit, share Co-op's) to their members and investors. To be able to do so they must issue an Offering Statement, which needs approval by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO).
- International Co-operative Principles
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Member economic participation
- Autonomy and independence
- Education, training, and information
- Co-operation among co-operatives
- Concern for community