Citizens For Renewable Energy annual meeting

I attended the annual meeting of the Citizens For Renewable Energy on Sunday at the beautiful YMCA outdoor centre in St. Clemens.

It was a hot day, but the facility was well shaded by trees, and kept its cool pretty well. No lights were required, as it makes good used of natural daylight.

This group defines grass roots. There were about 60 people in attendance to celebrate their 10th anniversary, and overall they have more than 1000 members. The group was founded by Ziggy Kleinau, to foster a better understanding of electricity issues among the citizens of Ontario, and to advocate for renewable energy solutions. There were several moving tributes to Ziggy for his tireless efforts in providing a forum for education of the group, for his interventions in nuclear hearings, and his cheerleading for renewable energy. The Province is a better place for his efforts.
I was very impressed by the deep understanding among the participants about the impact of our electricity choices, whether financial, or environmental. Any politician who thinks Ontarion’s just want the lights to come on has not met the members of CFRE. This group has some real pioneers. Some participants are off grid. One put up a 1.2 KW wind generator in 1979, and was paid less than 2 cents/kWh by Ontario Hydro. Dealing with Ontario Hydro at that time, in the days of monopoly must have required courage, and dogged determination. And it is the actions of people like that that moves us forward.

Janet Sawin of the Worldwatch Institute made a powerful presentation that pointed out the stunning growth rates experienced by renewable energy around the world, especially wind and solar. The presentation left one with a feeling of hope that around the world, things are changing. But concern was still expressed about if the change is fast enough. Wind is growing by close to 30% per year, and solar by over 40%. Biomass and geothermal are also experiencing solid growth. And the percentage supplied by these new renewable energy sources is growing very quickly, albeit from a small base. Still, the impact of renewable energy on the supply mix is becoming significant. The presentation will be posted on the CFRE web site in the near future.

Alex Doucas of OSEA made a presentation on the upcoming Standard Offer Program that the province has under development. OSEA’s efforts were critical to the province moving this forward. This program will purchase the power output of projects less than 10 MW, connected to distribution lines (not transmission), at a price of approximately 11 cents/kWh. Solar will be paid 42 cents/kWh. The purchase contracts will be for 20 years. According to Hydro One, there are 200 projects proposed for attachment to their system. While all of these will not likely proceed, if half did, it could supply over 3% of the province’s power – which is 15% of what we currently get from coal. Of course, there are many more projects that can connect to distribution networks other than Hydro One, and there are no doubt many projects that Hydro One does not yet know about. My belief is that once this program is formalized, we need a full effort by the wind, solar, hydraulic, and biomass industries, community groups, and individuals, to implement projects as quickly as possible. After all, if we implement substantial supply of renewable energy, then future electricity choices by governments become much easier, and the arguments made by some that “we have no choice but new nuclear facilities”, or “we should build clean coal” plants can diminish.

CFRE members make very good use of car pooling. I was going to see my parents for dinner in Guelph, and gave one participant a ride to Kitchener which is on the way. And another participant was going to have dinner with his daughter in Guelph, so he hitched a ride with another attendee to Guelph (his dinner was later than mine), and I picked him up and dropped him off in Durham, which is on the way home. Those who say car pooling doesn’t work in rural Ontario don’t know CFRE members. Members willingly make changes to their lifestyle, and do it without limiting their travel.

Very impressive individuals. Very impressive group.

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