Alternative Investments - Clean, Green Renewable Energy


by Natasa Zupancic

The Event

Our Alternative Investments - Clean, Green, Renewable Energy event at the freshly renovated Annette Street Branch of Toronto Public Library was a great success – informative, inspiring, hopeful and promising. It was a rare (and thus precious) occasion of having in the same room representatives of four renewable energy cooperatives, each one at a different stage in their journey of not only changing the ways we power our homes with electricity, but also our perceptions about the power of our communities in making the change possible.

The Audience

Investing in community power might take us beyond considerations for the safety and profitability of our investment and into a longer term envisioning of all the benefits such a cooperative endeavour can bring to its stakeholders. With this in mind, an engaged, informed, and curious audience consisting of people who want to take the future in their own hands - environmental activists, change makers, engineers, builders, young parents, many with babies in tow – participated by raising meaningful questions or contributing their own insights.

The Presenters

Passionate, experienced, knowledgeable, dedicated community builders who contributed many volunteer hours to this important work, delivered interesting and informative visual and story-telling pieces of visions and evidence.

Sustainability Ontario Community Energy Co-op was presented by President Johanna Hofmann (who enjoys collaborating with others to make change happen in the communities we live in) and Vice President Nicole Risse (a strong advocate for community ownership of sustainable energy projects). This co-operative, youngest of all, is still looking for founding members and offers a great opportunity for anybody interested in sitting on the Board and helping them develop from this early, pre-project stage into a more evolved enterprise. Their current focus is on rooftop solar energy, with more innovative uses of renewable energy a potential in the future.

Ingo Koenig, Director of Local Initiative for Future Energy - LIFE Co-operative, with a 30 year old passion for renewable energies, presented this most mature, Kitchener, Ontario based co-op and its versatile projects, built on private farms and business, as an example of sound investment towards building a better future.

Notable among the above presenters was the German connection, mentorship and enthusiasm for doing things for the greater good, i.e. social and environmental reasons, not just economic success.

Matthew Zipchen, Project Manager who coordinates the development, launch and affairs of SolarShare co-operative, including community engagement, financing and daily operations, showed us the unique model of this leading renewable energy co-op, which develops commercial scale solar energy installations that any Ontario resident can invest in. Matthew also addressed the issue of RRSP eligibility of these investments which is still not fully resolved and is a work in progress. To learn more see the FAQ section of their website.

Daniel Bida, Executive Director of the innovative ZooShare Biogas Co-operative, presented this slightly different initiative, with catchy, giggle-provoking slogans, and a mission to attract investors for production of electricity based on the usage of bio-waste from both ends of various digestion systems – leftovers from grocery stores and poo from the zoo. The co-op envisions an interesting collaboration of various stakeholders for the mutual benefit of all.

The Summary

The Organizers

Two dedicated Green13 members, Pam Mountain and Natasha Vaney, successfully organized this event. It was skillfully moderated by our Co-chair Paul Mero, and supported by the whole group, most notably by Annabel Reinis, thanks to her delicious cookies.

The Partners

Our warm thanks for the continuous hospitality of TPL Annette Street Branch, for the great coffee donated by The Good Neighbour Espresso Bar and to Bullfrog Power for powering this event. Ah, clean, green, renewable energy!