The Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-operative or OREC recently bought an Ontario wind turbine project, along with equity partner EnerFORGE, a subsidiary of Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation, according to a news report.
The wind power project, which consists of a single 2.5-MW turbine, is in Bruce County. That is more than 500 km away from Ottawa, and more than 200 km from Oshawa, but the buyers claim this is an example of “local” ownership of renewable power facilities.
“OREC is excited to bring its co-operative ownership model to this wind turbine in partnership with EnerFORGE. Our co-operative is committed to welcoming members and investors from the surrounding communities and stay true to our principles of local ownership and continuing to diversify our growing renewable energy portfolio,” announced Graham Findlay, Vice President, OREC.
OREC, according to its website, is a “co-operative” of mainly local, i.e., Ottawa residents, but is actually open to anyone who wants to sign on as an investor. OREC claims to be a cooperative but is basically a syndicate of investors.
In a recent one-dimensional profile in Ottawa Magazine, OREC founder Dick Bakker freely admits his goal is to make money: “I’m not an environmentalist, I’m a businessperson.” While energy poverty surged in Ontario when the province got into wind and solar power with lucrative 20-year contracts* awarded to power developers and electricity bills more than doubled, Bakker himself got a contract for a solar power installation which he says has funded his retirement.
By “local” and “community,” OREC and Bakker don’t mean the communities where power projects such as wind turbine facilities are actually located.
The “community” aspect of investments is important, Bakker says in the Ottawa Magazine article, to fight local objectors, because “NIMBY is the enemy of all things environmental. NIMBYism will delay and shove more costs on big corporate projects.”
By wielding the “local” ownership sword, OREC—which is a “partner” with City of Ottawa in its Energy Evolution strategy, can undermine and overrule concerns expressed by actual residents of areas where power projects are proposed.
The partnership between an Ottawa investors group and the Oshawa power utility subsidiary is a sign of what’s ahead: large urban centres want to rack up brownie points for climate change action, but if that happens elsewhere, they’ll take it.
Ottawa city councillor Scott Moffatt, also chair of the city’s environmental protection committee, recently wrote in his column in the Manotick Messenger that projects outside the city boundaries will work for him.
“…a project outside of Ottawa can provide benefits that contribute to our Climate Change Master Plan.”**
Meanwhile, Ottawa and OREC still boast they want “local” ownership and “community” participation in power projects. With Ottawa’s Energy Evolution strategy goal of 3,200 megawatts of new power generation, that will be a lot of projects. In the model described in the Energy Evolution document, the prediction is for 710 industrial-scale wind turbines—that’s about one-third of the total number of turbines in Ontario at present.
The trend is clear: there is money to be made on renewables for some folks, and they justify their investments by waving the “green” it’s good for the environment flag, while industrializing communities without real input from the people who live there.
*Two Auditors General for Ontario have criticized these contracts as being above-market and done without cost-benefit analysis. Ontario lost billions on renewable energy contracts AG Bonnie Lysyk claimed in a report several years ago.
** Manotick Messenger, November 5, page 25.
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