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. Through the adjustment since made to tariffs and requirements from applicants to obtain a contract from the Ontario Power Authority, one objective of the program has remained a constant and becomes increasingly important: The involvement of communities and municipalities in the 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-ops are encouraged to actively participant 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-ops governance structure they may also be part of the co-ops 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-ops may issue bonds (mostly non-share, non-profit Co-ops) or sell preference shares (for-profit, share Co-ops) 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