What is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy is a term that is often used in environmental resources but really, what is renewable energy? Renewable energy generation is the production of energy that is utilized from a source that can naturally replenish itself. Examples of renewable energy include the use of wind, solar, geothermal heat, and tidal resources to produce electricity.

There are many benefits to the use of renewable energy. One of the biggest is the inherent sustainability of renewable technologies. Since renewable sources naturally replenish themselves, they will not deplete. Renewable energy generation also has a reduced environmental impact in comparison to traditional electricity generation methods (such as oil or natural gas), particularly when considering air and greenhouse gas emissions.

Examples of renewable energy sources are:

  • Wind
  • Solar
  • Hydroelectric
  • Thermal
  • Bioenergy
  • Landfill gas
  • Energy from waste
  • Combined heat and power (co-generation)

Why Renewable Energy?

There are several motivations that drive the development of renewable energy generation projects such as:

Generate for Use – Energy Independence

To generate for our own use refers to projects that generate energy for use within our community, and can be accomplished by individual members or our community as a whole. Generating our own energy will also move us towards energy independence, meaning that we would no longer be fully reliant on buying our energy from others. There are many paths that a community can take to move towards energy independence.

Generate for Economic Development – Revenue Generation

Generation for economic development refers to a desire to produce and sell energy as a means of revenue generation for our community. In the case of electricity, it would not be used locally, but sold and distributed into the electricity grid. This option can be implemented by our community as a whole or by individual members within our community. It is also common for communities to partner with renewable energy developers on larger scale projects for economic development purposes.

Generate for Revenue Generation and Energy Independence

Electricity can also be generated for both economic development and our own use. This refers to a desire to produce electricity that can be used by the community or its members first, with any excess being sold to the grid.

Lower Environmental Impact

Renewable energy can also lower environmental impact. A shift towards renewable energy generation is very prominent in Ontario. This is largely due to the environmental benefits of using renewable energy in comparison to other forms of power generation, such as the burning of fossil fuels. The three major environmental benefits of renewable energy generations are: a reduced contribution to climate change; a reduction in human health and environmental impacts associated with the burning of fossil fuels; and a sustainable means of energy generation that does not deplete natural resources.

Enhanced Community Image

Development of renewable energy projects can help a community enhance its image, showcasing a commitment to the environment and a willingness to utilize new and emerging technologies.

Line Capacity

In order to distribute electricity produced from a renewable energy project to the grid, the grid system must be able to efficiently accept and distribute the electricity. Factors associated with safety, infrastructure design and operation have to be considered before a generator can successfully connect to the grid.

Generator systems can connect to either a distribution grid or transmission grid, depending on the amount of electricity that they generate. Generally, smaller projects can connect to a distribution system, whereas larger projects will typically connect to a transmission system. An example of a smaller project would be a rooftop solar PV installation on a house while a large project might be a large wind farm with multiple turbines.

Adequate connection capacity is a determining factor in the development of any renewable energy project. When developing a renewable energy project that requires grid connection, it is important to consult with the local electricity utility company as early in the process as possible to determine if adequate grid capacity is available for the project.

A preliminary tool for identifying available grid capacity is Hydro One’s Station and Feeder Capacity Calculator, which is available online. Electrical lines can be constructed to access alternative connection points, at a cost. construction of electrical lines over long distances is typically only a feasible option for large scale projects.

Connection Options

The connection type of a renewable energy project is an important aspect which ultimately defines how energy that is generated will be used. The summary below outlines the connection types. It also specifies whether the connection type aligns with energy independence and/or revenue generation motivations as well as if adequate grid capacity is required for the connection type.

Off Grid

Electricity from a renewable source which is used locally and not supplied or sold to the grid. There are several benefits to choosing an off-grid generation system, the primary being the ability to gain energy independence.

Except in remote locations, generating electricity off-grid renewable generation is typically more expensive than drawing from the grid due to unavailability of subsidy programs for the sale of electricity and cost of energy storage. Off-grid applications are available to both our community as a whole or individual members

  • Energy Independence Application: Yes
  • Revenue Generation Application No
  • Grid Capacity Required: No

Feed Only

All generated electricity is sold to the grid and none of it is used locally. Energy is generated only for economic development purposes. Feed-only applications are available to both our community as a whole or individual members. The availability of FIT and microFIT programs in Ontario have made feed-only projects more financially viable, although the future of these programs is uncertain.

The IESO has announced that 2017 will be the last year that microFIT applications will be accepted. The IESO’s website should be checked regularly for updates.

  • Energy Independence Application: No
  • Revenue Generation Application Yes
  • Grid Capacity Required: Yes


A Micro Grid is a local energy grid with capability to disconnect from the traditional electricity grid and operate independently. Energy can be generated for both economic development and energy independence purposes. Micro-grids offer us a greater choice as consumers and reduce our dependence on major electricity providers.

They also provide access to the electricity grid, serving as a backup for intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, eliminating the need for costly energy storage. Micro-grids are typically larger investments that would be made by the community as whole, or for use with multiple nation-owned buildings.

  • Energy Independence Application: Yes
  • Revenue Generation Application Yes
  • Grid Capacity Required: Yes

Net Metering

Net metering is offered by Hydro One to support renewable energy technologies. Customers who generate electricity primarily for their own use can send the excess electricity to Hydro One’s distribution system for a credit that offsets their electricity costs. Net-metering projects are typically smaller in size and implemented by community members or for individual buildings.

  • Energy Independence Application: Yes
  • Revenue Generation Application Yes
  • Grid Capacity Required: Yes

Please note that the motivations f lowering environmental impact and enhancing community image are applicable to all renewable energy connection types.

Contact us to speak with one of our qualified staff members to discuss your circumstances and learn how we can eliminate uncertainties and provide you with practical solutions that are tailored to your First Nation’s specific needs.

Let Cambium Aboriginal help.

Contact us today for a FREE consultation at:

705.657.1126 (Telephone)

Note**Cambium Aboriginal is now Cambium Indigenous Professional Services! We offer all of the same services plus other new and exciting service categories. You can visit our new website at: https://www.indigenousaware.com/

If you need to contact CIPS please call: (705) 657-1126 or email: spirit@indigenousaware.com

Thank you

Cambium Indigenous Professional Services
1109 Mississauga Street, Curve Lake First Nation, Ontario K0L 1R0