Policy Challenges for Renewable Energy Co-operatives in Canada: Summary research from the Measuring the Co-operative Difference Research Network

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Lipp, Judith
McMurtry, J.J.
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Measuring the Co-operative Difference Research Network
In many jurisdictions, the regulatory environment does not favour small-scale, community-owned energy developments. It can be difficult for community groups to get access to the grid when electricity systems are centralized and highly regulated in favour of large players. A major finding from the Measuring the Co-operative Difference Research Network's research on co-operative renewable energy is that currently, the success of community energy projects is heavily dependent on the policy environment in the jurisdiction where they are located. Even where policy enables co-operative energy projects, the development process is generally very cumbersome and demanding. This short paper gives an overview of the major challenges facing renewable energy co-ops, including lack of knowledge and technical expertise, difficulties accessing financing, and ensuring long-term profitability. The paper then looks at two jurisdictions (Ontario and Nova Scotia) in more detail, assessing their renewable energy policies in terms of how they help and hinder community-based energy projects. Topics covered include Feed-in Tariffs (FIT programs), Community Economic Development Investment Funds (CEDIFs), and government loan programs.