A member of an area group opposed to a wind turbine project in Norwich Township is questioning the marketing ethics of a recently formed cooperative that could own up to 49% of the 10-turbine project.
The Oxford Community Energy Co-op was formed in the latter part of 2013 with the majority of its initial directors living outside of Oxford County.
“Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s ethical,” Joan Morris, a member of the East Oxford Community Alliance, said. “I think people should know that it’s not really a co-op made up and being driven by people living in Oxford County or near the project area.”
Helmut Schneider, president and director on the co-op board, said although he was the only local voice on the co-op when it started, others have become directors or are in the process of becoming directors or members. Recently, directors from Woodstock and Innerkip have stepped forward, he said.
Since the incorporation, the board of directors has had the goal to attract additional local directors to the board.
“We have had discussion with four individuals from the community of Oxford County and have added one director from Woodstock, one director candidate who is currently volunteering as communications support from Innerkip, and we have a final interview next week with one director candidate who lives very close to the project area,” he said in an e-mail to the Sentinel-Review.
The current board is made up of several employees from ProWind, the developer of the project. One of the employees holds the treasurer position and another is acting as a director.
Other non-local directors include a co-founder and advocate of Friends of Wind Ontario, an accountant, a managing partner at a consultant firm and director at Ontario Sustainable Services Inc., and the executive director of Ontario Sustainable Services Inc.
“The OCEC was incorporated by seven individuals. Under the Co-operative Corporations Act, the incorporators become the first directors,” the e-mail from Schneider said.
As per rules, the co-op must hold an election within the next year.
Schneider anticipated the director positions would be filled at that point. by new members that don’t hold such prominent roles in the wind industry “What is important to me is that the members of the Oxford Community Energy Co-op are represented by an experienced board of directors. This is what this community deserves, and we will continue to maintain a strong and effective board as we attract new directors,” he said.
Schneider said the co-op currently has 40 members and is expected to have 50 by the end of the month. Its goal is to raise up to $9.5 million to own, at most, 49% of the project. The entire project is estimated to cost about $70 million, with a large portion raised through debt financing. The Six Nations community has recently publicized its interest in investing in the project as well.
The project is facing several hurdles in its last leg before possibly receiving approval to start building later this spring.
The East Oxford Community Alliance has notified ProWind of potential litigation if the project is to move forward. Norwich Township deemed itself an unwilling host for the project several years ago and maintains that status.
The public is still able to provide comment to the Ministry of the Environment regarding ProWind’s Eenewable Energy Approval (REA) application. The deadline for comments is March 24.