Helping Communities Rebuild Stronger Economies
*Content Courtesy of Pembina Institute
Helping communities rebuild stronger economies with renewables
With falling costs of solar and wind energy and storage, North America has entered a new reality: renewable electricity generation is both the most affordable option and, in combination with other clean energy sectors, an expected driver of economic growth. It isn’t surprising, then, that we’ve seen an increase in interest in renewable energy projects – especially at the municipal level – over the past year. This is especially true for Alberta.
Municipalities, business owners and citizens want to make these projects happen, but they need tools and resources to get started; whether on the roof of a house, to keep the lights on in a storefront, or to decrease the greenhouse-gas profile of an entire city or town. From new documents on financing and myth-busting, and informational webinars, we’re putting tools and resources within reach at a time when people are figuring out how to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and become healthier and more resilient than before.
A sustainable plan for recovery
Since COVID-19 shut down economies around the world, emphasis has been placed on the importance of rebuilding in a way that prepares us to face the global crisis of climate change, with a focus on renewable energy and a lower carbon footprint. The International Energy Agency’s Sustainable Recovery Plan lays out a road-map for a sustainable recovery from the pandemic that would “boost economic growth, create millions of jobs and put emissions into structural decline.” Of the millions of new jobs, the largest number will be created through retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency, and in the electricity sector, particularly in grids and renewables. Our own analysis has shown that in Alberta, renewable energy can be counted on to create as many as 31,300 jobs through 2030.
Municipal leadership in renewable energy
We launched our Municipal Leadership in Renewable Energy (MLRE) program in 2019 in response to rising interest in Alberta, where renewable energy resources are especially bountiful, but local government capacity, specific knowledge and overall support mechanisms are still needed. For some, this may mean wanting to start a project but not knowing where to begin, for others it could mean learning how to finance a project. The MLRE program provides resources and promotes peer-to-peer learning around how municipalities can directly invest in clean energy and create an enabling environment for clean energy projects and businesses.
Building the momentum
Even before the global pandemic, interest in renewable energy was high. In response to demand, the MLRE program more than doubled the number of planned events as participation grew from a wider range of stakeholders than anticipated. We saw that citizens, governments and private industry recognize the benefits of diversifying energy – both in terms of the environment and the economy.
We’ve been able to keep those practical conversations going during the pandemic to ensure that renewable energy usage reaches its full potential and is featured in plans to rebuild from COVID-19.
We’ve held three webinars since the beginning of lockdown in March. For the first, which focused on the lessons learned in municipal renewable energy projects, we hosted municipal leaders who shared with peers their own experiences in developing and procuring renewable energy projects. The second explored the language that brings us together to have conversations related to renewable energy. Based on learnings from our Alberta Narratives Project, this webinar was designed to help Alberta municipalities, businesses, organizations, educational institutions, and service providers trying to launch renewable projects in the face of cultural pushback to consider opponents’ points of view so their concerns could be better understood and addressed.
As interest in financing grew, particularly around solar, we added a third webinar. It brought together representatives from financial institutions like ATB Financial and municipalities like the City of Edmonton to talk about the rebates and incentives available for financing solar energy in Alberta at both the local and provincial levels. For each of these events, participation more than tripled.
Private and public financing
Prior to the pandemic, financial institutions also began putting sustainable finance structures in place that result in more lending programs and financing opportunities for renewable and energy efficiency projects. In addition to ATB Financial, Scotiabank also has programs to help finance municipal renewable projects. And RBC and TD Bank have financing options for energy efficiency retrofits and/or installations of solar panels for homes, farms and small businesses.
In addition to our webinars, we’ve also published a series of resource documents that outline the range of tools and support available to municipalities, business and individuals when it comes to starting renewable projects: Clean Energy Opportunities for Alberta Municipalities; Renewable energy — what you need to know; and Renewable Energy Opportunities For Businesses and Municipalities in Alberta. With the positive feedback and calls for more information we’ve received from webinar participants to date, we hope these documents will make accessing this valuable information easier than ever.
We look forward to continuing to build momentum on renewable energy; connecting the individuals, municipalities and businesses working to build Canada back stronger, with new options to support and finance their energy projects that will prove resilient in the face of future global disruptions.