by Deron Johnston
It’s been ten years since a residents’ working group was established to investigate the possibilities of using water flow to generate power for the village of Burritts Rapids. In 2010, the group decided to incorporate as a community non-profit association called the Burritts Rapids Renewable Energy Association (BRREA). The intent was to funnel any money generated by energy production back into the community and to allow the community input on how to distribute the money.
In late 2015, BRREA applied for a FIT 4 (Feed In Tariff) contract that would allow them to sell the energy they produced. Partnering with the Municipality of North Grenville and the financial and development partner on the project Equinox Hydro Inc., they found out in June 2016 that they were not approved by the IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) over a minor technicality. BRREA was not alone, six other projects were disqualified in the same way, including one group being disqualified for failing to put “N.A.” on a line in their application. Despite The Ontario Waterpower Association appealing on their behalf, they were still unsuccessful.
Not to be denied, they decided to apply again on November 5 of this year, this time for a FIT 5 contract. Negotiations with the Municipality of North Grenville were unsuccessful and North Grenville Council voted not to participate this time around. So BRREA and Equinox applied under the name Burritts Rapids Hydro Inc. with each as 50% shareholders. The group expects to find out the result of the application in either late spring or early summer of this year.
There is a complication for BRREA. The IESO (the crown corporation that operates the electricity market in Ontario), has a difference of opinion with Hydro One on the ability of Hydro One’s Smiths Falls Transformer Station to handle any increased input from projects like this. Hydro One assured BRREA that there is plenty of capacity for a small project like theirs, but the IESO doesn’t want to open up the capacity for any more wind or solar FIT contracts, which means that water power projects become collateral damage. BRREA believes that what the IESO is really concerned about is that if supply at Smiths Falls were to somehow exceed demand, the IESO would be forced to sell off the excess at a lower price than they paid for it, if it can’t be used elsewhere in Ontario. The IESO obviously wouldn’t want to do this, so they’re reluctant to accept any more input. If unable to connect to Smiths Falls, the project is not financially viable. Unfortunately, the final word comes from the IESO and only the Ministry of Energy could reverse the decision.
This past Thursday night, BRREA held their Annual General Meeting at the Burritts Rapids Community Hall. The group outlined to the residents in attendance what they’ve been up to over the past year and the work still to be done. They then held elections for the board of directors with four current directors returning as acclaimed.
It’s inspiring to hear about all of the work that BRREA has put into trying to make this project happen for Burritts Rapids. The project could bring in as much $100,000 in revenue per year. A lot of good could be done with that kind of money for the residents. Let’s hope that they become successful in their quest and that they become a shining example of what’s possible not only through green energy initiatives, but what’s also possible through patience, hard work and a strong desire to make your community a better place for everyone.