The first step in choosing the right pathway is knowing where you are and what your destination is. In renewable energy, this means understanding your present and future energy needs as well as the most economic way to meet them. In addition, it is useful to know what level of participation, if any, your community would like to have in the emerging green economy.
A Community Energy Plan and /or Energy Assessment is essential to understanding where your journey may take you. These plans highlight how much energy your community currently uses, what its future electricity demand may be, and indicate where the community might save on energy costs. In addition, depending on your communities location, they also may facilitate an understanding of what size and type of alternative energy power projects may be feasible in your community. FNPA has assisted many of your First Nation sister communities in completing these reports and would be more than happy to do the same for you!
Your energy assessment will assist your community in deciding which energy future it wishes to strive for. Generally speaking, there are three possible destinations:
- Energy Savings: For some communities, the best option may involve identifying ways to save on energy use. Examples of this include retrofits, building energy management systems, storage and behavioral changes (i.e. changing the time of day laundry is done to take advantage of lower power prices). To achieve this objective, It is important to not only understand which outcomes are technically and economically feasible, but also be aware of the various provincial and federal government programs available to help offset costs.
- Community Scale Generation: Community Scale Generation is defined differently depending on what part of Canada your community is located in. These are smaller projects (i.e. under 5MW) whose primary purpose is to displace, reduce, or eliminate the need to purchase electricity from a third party supplier. These projects are treated differently than utility scale projects in terms of government policy and regulations. Most suitable for communities with sufficient renewable resources to meet their own demand needs in a cost effective manner, these projects help communities take control of their energy futures.
- Utility Scale Generation: Similar to community scale generation, utility scale generation is defined differently in different locations. These projects are larger in size (i.e. greater than 5MW) whose primary purpose is to sell electricity for the purposes of earning profits. These are most suitable for communities with the resources, capacity, and the desire to enter the highly competitive electricity sector. Profits from the sale of electricity can be reinvested however the community desires.