Brant Power delivers 'power for the people'

Brantford, ON - Brant County Power is moving into the renewable energy market in a big way.

The municipally owned electricity distribution company says it has formed a new division - Brant Renewable Energy -to meet pent-up demand and help the community become a leader in clean energy.

"Solar power will be a primary focus of ours right now," Bruce Noble, the CEO of Brant County Power, said Wednesday. "But we're going to be looking at all kinds of renewable energy including methane gas capture, wind, solar-thermal and hydroelectric as well as biomass.

"We want to be a full-service provider."

The utility's vision calls for it to help customers find the best possible renewable energy plan, which could mean solar panels for roofs of area homes, businesses, barns and industrial complexes, he said.

"I think we have a social responsibility to do this," said Noble. "And we see a lot of opportunity in the renewable energy market for our stakeholders, our consumers and our shareholders.

"We believe it's the right time to be doing this and we want to be leaders in the area. We want to be known as the best little utility in Ontario."

The move into renewable energy will enable the Brant County Power to meet the demand for cleaner energy, he added.

"We were taken aback by how much pent-up demand there is out there," he said. "We have other utilities, some agricultural operations and industries, as well as a few houses, that are looking for cleaner energy."

Brant Power has hired Ruth Cooper, a renewable energy consultant to oversee the new division. She has several years of experience in renewable energy, working on projects both large and small.

Her previous work includes a stint with Skypower, a company that bills itself as Canada's leading developer of solar energy.

"One of our goals here is to educate people about renewable energy, advocate for it and help them find the solutions that work for them," Cooper said. "A big part of this, too, is to keep the jobs local so that the community benefits in a number of ways."

The utility has developed a marketing campaign to support the move into renewable energy.

"What we envision here is an exciting new future, which is an excellent fit between your local utility company and you," Cooper said. "I like to call it 'power for the people' because you're partners in generation."

Brant Power has a five-kilowatt solar panel outside its Curtis Avenue headquarters in Paris and solar panels on the building's roof.

Officials at the utility have already had lots of people stop in and ask questions about solar power and other forms of renewable energy. In response to the public interest, a public open house is planned early next year.

The move into renewable energy was sparked by the provincial government's Green Energy Act and its Feed-in-Tariff program, which encourages people to invest in clean energy projects, said Terry Collins, the chairman of the utility's board of directors.

"We looked at it as a business and could see that it was a way of protecting our environment and make money doing it," Collins said. "We want to the distribution site, the go-to-people for information to help people learn about it, get involved in it and if they want, to invest in it."

It's the type of initiative that fits in well with the regional effort that designated the area of Brantford, Brant County, Six Nations, Norfolk and Haldimand counties as a green energy hub.