Advantages of community ownership include:

–        better support from citizens for solar and in particular incentive programs

–        opportunity to educate citizens on renewable energy

–        citizens who are more aware of their own energy usage and often undertake energy efficiency measures.

–        51% of renewable energy in Germany is community owned (includes both direct ownership and cooperatives).  There are many RE coops in Europe, e.g. Belgian coop with 40,000 members.

Jon Worren – partnership between developers and coops for “set-aside” in FIT2.0 will involve 51+% ownership by community group, but <50% voting rights for the community group, and creation of a Special Purpose Vehicle.  OPA wants the developers to manage it.  There are some big cultural differences between developers and community groups, seeing as this is new territory and the applications need to be sorted out very quickly, these partnerships are akin to “shot-gun” marriages.

–        No further advice or decisions on how sound partnerships should be created was discussed by the expert panel – it seems a new, unknown space!

Mike Brighan – TREK now has offering statement approved.  Have 400 members, raised 500K in 5yr bonds at 5% in a few weeks, this is with a very established and forewarned member base.  Have access to 12M$ “angel debt financing” to cover gaps between payments to the project and when capital is raised.  Are paying a premium to developers to bring them projects, purchasing turn-key from them.   Advocates their “non-profit” model, where profits in excess of 5% go to education and outreach.

Joan Haysom – OREC one of first to get offering statement approved.  Model it to sell 20 yr preference shares with an intended return of 5%.  Raise $1M during 9 weeks of the summer 2012, and have now signed agreements for 5 micro-FITs on housing coops, and a joint venture part ownership of a 250kW nearly signed, All to be built in next 1-6 months, producing revenue in 2013.  Have several projects in development for FIT2.0.  Preferred approach is 100% ownership, but have considered alternatives.  In future we will look at non-Fit opportunities and other renewable energy technologies.

Kris Stevens – He advocates for the window to be open long enough (2 months) to give community groups enough time to collect affidavits related to proof of community ownership and undertake sufficient due diligence on these projects and partnerships.

-Joan Haysom, Solar Energy Project Manager at Centre for Research in Photonics, University of Ottawa

Joan Haysom