In 2002, the Ontario electricity market was deregulated, which means the government essentially removed the governmental control and ownership of energy generation facilities and opened the market in Ontario beyond being reliant on Ontario Hydro.
For many people and organizations, this offered the chance for smaller scale projects and new types of generation projects to be created. It also meant that renewable energy generation could potential assume a more prominent role in Ontario’s electricity market.
Co-operatives are one form of organization that can be used to allow communities or groups to develop and maintain ownership and control of generation facilities. In the last three years, the government of Ontario has introduced a program designed for smaller scale generation projects (under 10 MW) and a fixed-price, long term contract to generators. This makes it easier for co-ops and other groups that are developing smaller projects to sell their electricity at a price that results in a financially viable project.
Another type of co-op model available is a purchasing or consumer co-op. Members come together to obtain better rates and access to energy generation or conservation equipment.
The renewable co-op model allows groups to:
gather investment from members and the larger community
exercise direct democratic control over the project and organization through the one-member, one-vote principle
resist having the project taken over by private investors with large sums of money to invest in the project (which could occur in a traditionally structured private corporation where voting rights are tied to the amount of investment in the company).