Community Energy in Centre Wellington Builds Resilience

October 3, 2017

Extreme weather

Financing community energy projects was the focus of the September's QUEST Ontario Caucus meeting which was hosted by the Region of Waterloo.

The Region presented preliminary results of their research into financing mechanisms. They provided a handy summary of mechanisms that included: capital reserves, revolving funds and trusts, loans, debentures, equipment leases, on-bill financing programs, soft loans, local improvement charges, energy supply agreements, energy savings performance contracts and energy services agreements.

The Region is also identifying cases studies that demonstrate these financing mechanisms and Caucus participants were asked to share their knowledge of community energy projects. 

The new combined heat and power plant in the Centre Wellington Sportsplex was one of several projects shared. The Township of Centre Wellington has entered into an agreement with Centre Wellington Energy Innovations (CWEI) to ensure their designated emergency shelter, the Sportsplex, has power in the event of a failure of the provincial transmission grid (e.g., caused by a major ice storm). Through a multi-year, fixed-rate power purchase agreement, the township has also mitigated the financial risk of escalating electricity rates. More information on how this community energy project was financed can be found in a report that went to Township Council. Since CWEI is a subsidiary of the municipally-owned local distribution company, Centre Wellington Hydro, the municipality will also receive a dividend from this growing profit centre.

Markham is usually the go-to case study to show how a community can become more resilient to the impact of climate change, save money and be kinder to the planet, at the same time. But some communities have trouble seeing themselves in the Markham example. So, it is nice to have a community energy project from a small urban centre in a rural municipality to showcase.

The project also highlights how co-operation between a local distribution company, Centre Wellington Energy, and their municipal shareholder can bring tremendous community benefits. CWEI's mandate is to keep energy costs down and to make Centre Wellington more attractive and competitive from a commercial and residential perspective. Media coverage of a recent presentation to Township Council reports on their efforst to research a "workable financial and technical solution for future electrical distribution within Centre Wellington". Their goal is to minimize grid defections which is a real threat to the traditional business model of local electricity utilities.