Dear Friends,

The All-Party Caucus on Co-operatives held its eight meeting on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015, under the theme “Innovative co-ops in green technologies and climate change adaptation.”

My colleague Hélène LeBlanc, M.P. for LaSalle—Émard, chaired this eight meeting and welcomed the following guests: Mr. Betrand Fouss, Strategic Director of Coop Carbone, Mr. James Law, Services Manager of the TREC Renewable Energy Cooperative, Mr. Yuill Herbert, Director of the Sustainability Solutions Group, along with Mr. John Kilpatrick and Ms. Deanna Leaman, respectively Vice-President and a member of the EnerGreen Builders Co-operative.  Parliamentarians from all three recognized parties attended.

Coop Carbone support its members and partners in taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the carbon market and in reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Quebec. Mr. Bertrand Fouss explained that by doing so the co-operative contributes to the growth of the green economy in Québec. He mentioned that Coop Carbone manages the compliance of fuel distributors and generates a demand for GHG emission reduction projects. A portion of the revenue returns to the fuel distributors in the form of emission rights, which allows them to comply with the regulation at a lower cost. Mr. Fouss rightly noted that its model aligns the interests of users and fuel distributors. For more information on this impressive co-op visit their web site.

TREC Renewable Energy Co-operative is a non-profit, environmental co-operative that develops community-owned renewable energy projects. Mr. James Law highlighted the advantages of the community power model, which are renewable energy projects that are initiated, implemented and owned by members of a local community. He explained that there are three types of returns with such projects: Social Return, Environmental Return and Economic Return.

Mr. Law explained that in Ontario there is the Green Energy Act, introduced in 2009, designed to expand Ontario’s production of renewable energy, promote energy conservation and create clean-energy jobs. The Act includes, among other things, a Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program for renewable energy sources. He mentioned that there are power production contracts set-aside for co-operatives and communities. Among the challenges facing community power in Ontario is the difficulty in accessing capital from commercial lenders and the challenge in achieving economies of scale with the projects. For more information on TREC, I invite you to consult their website.

Sustainability Solutions Group is a leading sustainability consulting co-operative which mission is to create and engage in inspired endeavours that are of net benefit to humanity and the ecosystems in which we are embedded. Mr. Yuill Herbert explained that at its inception the co-op received a grant from the now defunct Co-operative Development Initiative (CDI). This co-operative became involved in the introduction of the LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) rating system in Canada and have worked with numerous cities and communities across the country. Mr. Herbert noted that the group developed a model that showed a community can save 26% of its GHG emissions by concentrating future developments in the core area of a town or city.  For more information on this innovative group, please visit their web site. The existence of such a co-op stands as a proof that federal funding initiative like CDI were efficient and necessary.

EngerGreen Builders Co-operative is a ten-member/owner worker co-operative committed to building and maintaining high quality sustainable buildings using environmentally friendly building materials and practices. Mr. John Kilpatrick explained that the co-operative specializes in designing and building passive solar residences and accomplishing energy efficient retrofits. He noted that their building techniques result in a residence with virtually no additional cooling needs and that supplies up to 50% of its heating needs. Education is an important mandate of the co-operative since energy efficiency is not well known. For further details please visit the web site.

To conclude I would add that many provinces and territories have committed to develop their renewable energy sector. However, with some exceptions, there does not appear to be a great deal of policy development specifically targeted to renewable energy co-operatives. Clearly, much more needs to be done to develop this promising sector. In the riding I have the honour of representing in the House of Commons, I attended a great launch, in 2014, of a partnership between a local co-operative, the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op (OREC) and a school. Indeed, the Solar Project at the Collège catholique Samuel-Genest saw new solar panel being installed on the school roof.

Our plan moving forward is to organize another meeting of the All-Party Caucus on Co-operatives, this spring.


Honourable Mauril Bélanger, M.P. for Ottawa–Vanier Liberal Advocate for Co-operatives