Realizing community power
In 2006, TREC Renewable Energy Co-operative applied for a TAF grant to assess the feasibility of community-owned electricity generation through solar power. Early financial analysis showed that the community power business case was unfavourable under the then-current market conditions. However, three years later, the Ontario introduced the renewable energy feed-in-tariff program through its Green Energy Act, allowing for long-term contracts for renewable energy at rates exceeding that of conventional power. TREC determined that its financial model for a community solar program was now viable. With additional funding from TAF, TREC launched SolarShare, Canada’s leading renewable energy co-op. As of 2014, SolarShare had raised $3 million to invest in more than 20 community-owned solar electricity generation facilities and is on track to own $30 million worth of renewable energy generating assets. In total, TAF invested $180,000 in developmental grants between 2006 and 2010 so that TREC could create a new financing structure that used the power of the community to attract and deploy a new source of funding for renewable energy projects.
Developing one of the first renewable energy co-ops in Canada was very challenging right from the start. I doubt that SolarShare could have succeeded without TAF’s help. TAF funded the initial feasibility study, and later provided grants and a loan which assisted the co-op through times of need. SolarShare repaid it’s loan to TAF on time and in 2015 might become the largest renewable energy co-operative in North America, when it will own close to $30 million worth of generating assets. TAF is a credit to Toronto and deserves to be celebrated as a revolutionary force for the betterment of our environment. – Mike Brigham, President, SolarShare