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KAP backs community power projects

A proposed business model that would allow Manitobans to invest and direwctly profit from wind energy development has the backing of Manitoba’s provincial farm organization.

Keystone Agricultural Producers wants to see Manitoba enact legislation that creates a program enabling all communities to develop and invest in wind power projects.

The farm lobby group passed a resolution to that effect at its annual meeting January 25.

It’s more support for the business model for wind energy development represented by the Elton Energy Co-op, formed in 2006 to investigate the potential for renewable energy development in the Rural Municipality of Elton near Brandon.

A two-year pilot project gathering data shows the wind energy is there for harvesting. The idea has also evolved a business model. Community power projects would link wind energy development with rural economic development, by giving Manitobans a mechanism to directly invest in projects, Dan Mazier, an Elton-area farmer and KAP vice-president told the meeting.

But before they can begin to gauge investor interest in such an entity, they need a commitment from Manitoba Hydro to buy power from community power projects.

“Right now they have no mandate to buy power from independent producers in this province. They have to be given an incentive,” said Mazier.

“The legislation really just says they shall produce and sell and control all the electricity in the province.”

Smaller scale

Elton Energy Co-operative has proposed a regionally dispersed network of smaller-scale wind energy projects producing 50 megawatts of community-based power. For relatively small investments by Manitobans — of perhaps $1,000 to $2,500 — and based on a conservative estimate of rates of return in existing wind energy projects, Elton’s model projects an investor would see a 12 per cent return, with five per cent of that designated for supporting local projects in the community.

Studies have shown locally owned projects can potentially triple the revenue returned to local communities compared to what comes back via outsider investor-driven models.

“We’re saying, if we make a conscious decision to do this locally, there’ll be three times more money coming back into this province.”

Mazier said with rural communities struggling financially we can’t afford to let yet another resource be extracted from the region, with the benefits mostly accruing outside of it.

“We’ve developed things far too long by extracting everything we can out of our area,” he said. “We need to revisit how we develop things in renewable energy field and in rural economic development.”

Community control

Elton Energy Co-op’s model for wind energy development is different than what’s led to controversy across rural Ontario. The matter has recently come to a head with Ontario Federation of Agriculture calling for a moratorium on wind farm development there, citing too many polarizing issues that are dividing communities, including competing community interests and lack of municipal input into where wind farms are built.

“This is where all the ‘NIMBY’ starts, when it’s out of your control,” said Mazier. “To me that’s no way to develop things.”

Elton Energy Co-op was expected to hold a public meeting Feb. 5 in Forrest to share findings of its wind data study and provide updates on the project’s business model.

“We’re exploring things right now,” said Mazier. “We’re open for discussion.”

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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