There’s a quiet energy revolution taking place in Ontario.  Albertans should take note.

A decade ago electricity producers were an elite club.   A few big companies running big fossil, nuclear and hydro plants had an effective monopoly on power production in Ontario.

But over the last decade, smaller, locally-based renewable energy technologies have come of age.  And like the arrival of cell phones, renewables are overturning the big monopolies.   

This is what’s gone unnoticed about the growth of renewables in Ontario: families, farmers, First Nations are becoming the owners and producers of power in the province.  We’re moving from system of corporate power to community power. 

Tell Alberta Premier Jim Prentice to Go Solar!

We’re still in the early days, but the numbers show how renewable energy is empowering communities across Ontario.

Today 10,000 families, schools and churches in Ontario have become micro solar power plants.

An astounding 1 in 6 Ontario farmers now make additional revenue from renewable energy.  Nine thousand farms now produce electricity from the sun and 3,000 have a stake of some kind in windmills.

In total, over twenty thousand Ontario families, famers, First Nations, cooperatives and municipalities have become renewable energy producers.

I saw first-hand how this people powered renewable revolution is empowering communities when I went home to visit my mum earlier this week.

My hometown like many communities in Ontario got hit hard by the 2009 recession.  The factory my mum worked in for decades closed down as did many others.  

But as I walked by it yesterday, a new business had opened in the factory with a notable addition: the roof is covered in solar panels.   In a nearby industrial park there’s a clean energy startup company that’s replaced another business that closed in the 2009 recession.

On the edge of town where the old factories give way to farmer’s fields there again you see solar panels.  Renewable energy is clearly helping local businesses and farmers get back on their feet.

And walking through the town you see solar panels again and again.  The homes of friends I grew up with are now producing solar power and doing their part to fight climate change.  

But every change comes with some headaches.  According to my mum, the main causes of traffic congestion in town are no longer just the CN tracks and the line-up at Tim Hortons, but massive trucks hauling wind turbines from a nearby factory.  That factory now employs 400 people.  And while the community is vehemently opposing a proposal to dump Toronto’s garbage in a new landfill, others are joining together to build a cooperatively-owned wind farm elsewhere in the county.

These are all green shoots of a new community-powered economy that’s giving life to Ontario’s rusted out and receding car economy.

Families, farmers and businesses are becoming more financially independent thanks to renewable energy and they are doing their part to fight climate change.    New local businesses are also creating new jobs to meet the demand .

And this is just the beginning.

Germany is well ahead of Ontario in the development of green energy.  There, the 67% of renewable energy is community owned.  Ontario is just starting its renewable energy transition and is at 18%.

Alberta’s new Premier is considering replacing his province’s coal-fired electricity generation with wind and solar power as part of a new provincial climate plan. Alberta farmers, homeowners and small businesses would do well to look at what is happening in Ontario and fight to be part of this energy revolution. 

Tell Alberta Premier Jim Prentice to Go Solar!