Energy Co-op to fund sustainable projects in Black Diamond and Turner Valley

What do a retired firefighter, a former geologist, an environmental risk assessment consultant, a contractor, and a poet all have in common? A love for their communities, Black Diamond and Turner Valley.

And this diverse group of residents have pooled their individual strengths to power a unique idea that will help give back to the communities they love so much.

“We have such a phenomenal group of people here in the Foothills,” said Larry Kapustka, member of Foothills Energy Co-op’s founding board. “There is this common sense of wanting to be modern, but to still maintain the characteristics of a small community.”

In an effort to further bolster this strong sense of community, Foothills Energy Co-op was created. Run completely by volunteers, the Co-op markets electricity, natural gas and green energy to the residents of Foothills at low rates, with the express purpose of retaining revenues in and for the community.

All revenues generated from the sale of energy through UTILITYnet as the registered retailer of record, will go into the Co-op Community Fund to be used to fund projects that advance the Co-op’s goals, revenues that would otherwise go to large corporations.

“We realized that we had found a way to fund community projects, without having to ask people directly for money,” said Murray Knowler, also a member of the founding board. “It is such a great opportunity, really, why wouldn’t we do this?”

Officially formed in 2016, the Co-op’s mandate is to fund and support energy conservation, green energy and sustainability initiatives that are within the service area. The Board will be asking members to submit ideas and develop proposals that will be reviewed and approved by a committee.

“We don’t want to be pushing only projects that the board wants to see funded,” said Kapustka. “We want this to be a member-driven initiative to provide some diversity to the decision making within he community.”

Foothills Energy Co-op was modeled after a similar company run in Olds, Mountain View Power, an Energy Marketer focused on encouraging consumers to enroll for services under the UTILITYnet retail umbrella. The Board members were introduced to Alberta-based UTILITYnet, a utility clearinghouse and founders of Green Alberta Energy. Joining UTILITYnet meant Foothills Energy Co-op could offer competitive electricity and natural gas prices and secure renewable energy credits at substantially lower costs.

The contract relationship between Foothills Energy Co-op as an Energy Marketer to customers throughout Alberta and UTILITYnet as the retailer brought with it a robust and fully developed back-end system that makes switching energy providers easy.

“It was absolutely crucial to have a company like UTILITYnet provide us a platform we can use to market energy to our members,” said Graham Lettner, founding board member. “They do everything behind the scenes seamlessly, and allow us to focus solely on marketing in our communities. It is amazing that they have created something that provides an opportunity for smaller communities to benefit.”

In addition to funding green/sustainable projects, members who sign-up with Foothills Energy Co-op will have the opportunity to help ‘green the grid’. Through their online customer account, members can choose to green as much as they can afford, whether it is 5% or 100%. This ensures a specific percentage of energy from non-carbon sources is pushed onto the grid.

“We hope that others in Alberta see what we are doing and feel that they can do the same,” said Lettner. “It is a great way of giving back to the people who make our communities such great places to live.”

Deanna McArthur | February 02, 2017