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Affinity Renewables is a new limited liability company formed by the SPCA and our partnered commercial wind developer, RMS Energy (lead by Reuben Burge). The primary goal of Affinity Renewables is to satisfy the technical and business requirements of Nova Scotia’s COMFIT program and to install upwards of 20 MW of new wind energy that will help the province in meeting its 2015 renewable energy standards. Our initial application was in competition with over 60 others.

 

Why is the SPCA involved in wind development?

The SPCA relies on donations to carry out its lifesaving work. Reliable and predictable funding is essential to mission critical programs that provide lifesaving social services. Reliable funding is also essential to the development of long term planning and new programming.

Market place pressures, such as increased competition, reduced donor commitments, and dwindling grant opportunities necessitate that organizations like the SPCA must be readily adaptable, progressive and innovative to survive.

What is COMFIT?

COMFIT stands for Nova Scotia’s Community Feed-In Tariff program. This program has two streams: wind and tidal arrays. The program is designed for locally-based renewable electricity projects. To be eligible, projects must be community owned and connected at the distribution level. Each project requires Ministerial approval. Nova Scotia is one of only a few jurisdictions in North America with a comprehensive feed-in tariff program. At the cornerstone of COMFIT is community, because it offers community members strong engagement opportunities and enables successful project development at the local level. The Department of Energy, under the new COMFIT initiative, has set a new tariff rate for wind energy, which removes pricing uncertainty and allows developers to better understand project economics and development feasibility. To learn more, visit: www.weareenergy.ca and http://nsrenewables.ca/feed-tariffs .  Recently the COMFIT Program has been discontinued and no new applications will be considered – this change does not impact any existing agreements.

 

What are the mechanics of the partnership?

Affinity Renewables is financed by private lenders. These lenders have a business relationship with the SPCA’s partnered commercial wind developer and engineer, Reuben Burge. Reuben is considered the province’s leading authority and developer of wind energy.

RMS Energy, under Reuben’s leadership, has established numerous projects in Nova Scotia in his career. His success is based on mitigating risks and uncertainties prior to construction. Reuben’s largest and most well-known project is the 51 MW Dalhousie Mountain Wind Farm. To learn more, visit: www.rmsenergy.ca

The lenders provide the financial backing; RMS provides the operational support and project development; and the SPCA provides the community connection and community benefit. Each party then earns revenues based on the profits of the project, for the lifecycle of the project.

Are there any financial risks to the SPCA?

The SPCA will have no financial burdens or risks associated with this project. The SPCA is not required to make any investments.

Is the SPCA’s charitable status at risk as a result of being involved in a profit earning business?

A shareholder agreement outlines the SPCA’s position in this venture as earning revenues for specific programs centred on its mission. Provided said revenues are used for a charitable cause, the SPCA’s charitable status remains intact, even if said monies exceed other sources of income.

What is the connection between wind and animal welfare? Is there causal alignment?

In order to be eligible for COMFIT, all projects must boast a community benefit. The SPCA has secured the eligibility status through its mission and mandate and the associated operations of the SPCA province-wide. The SPCA is representing “community” in this partnership.  The partnership is based on achieving regulatory compliance and providing additional benefits to the community beyond a clean energy source.

There is also essential alignment regarding sustainability: creating sustainable funding; sustainable SPCA programming; sustainable energy; and sustainable communities. The SPCA is the only non-profit charitable organization involved in COMFIT.

What are the direct benefits of the project?

There are two key direct benefits:

  1. Currently there are 15 MW of clean energy approved to be produced in the communities of Kemptown, Dean, Pictou and Trenton.
  2. The SPCA’s operations will be sustained and its mission-critical programs will thrive and continue to provide benefits in humane education, animal protection and animal care.

What are the indirect community benefits of the project?

This social innovation strategy is educating non-profit organizations, communities, government and developers about the opportunities that exist, be they to promote ethical or socially sensitive development, or to have commercial enterprise provide direct financial support to non-profit organizations like the SPCA.

What level of engagement has taken place in communities where these developments will be established?

Extensive community consultations, including stakeholder meetings, educational sessions and presentations have been undertaken by the developer to ensure a positive community response and ultimate success for the lifetime of the project. A number of assessments are also required by COMFIT.

Why is this revenue so important?

The SPCA’s vision for this project is to underpin critical programs with reliable funding. Specifically, the SPCA is considering targeting programs that have typically not attracted donor or sponsor interest, or programs that are ineligible for grants or government funding. These operational expenses may not be as appealing to the aforementioned funders, but they are essential to the success of the SPCA’s mission. Each year, revenues will be allocated to the area of greatest need at budgeting time.

How will this project mitigate financial risk for the SPCA?

Relying on donor dollars is a frantic and uncertain financial environment to operate within. As a result, no organization can afford to become too reliant on any one source of revenue. Diversifying revenue sources is critical to mitigating financial and operational risk. Many non-profit organizations rely on the same sources of funding and the competition is significant and opportunities are diminishing. This initiative represents uncharted territory and reveals a new opportunity for financial sustainability.

What is the timeline for the project?

The windmills are up and the Nova Scotia SPCA should receive earnings in 2016.

Who are the directors of Affinity Renewables?

  1. Reuben Burge, RMS Energy and the Dalhousie Mountain Wind Farm
  2. Charl du Plooy, Treasurer of the Nova Scotia SPCA Board of Directors
  3. Kristin Williams, consultant to the project and former Executive Director of the Nova Scotia SPCA

What is the SPCA’s position on this project?

Though the SPCA does not act as a spokesperson for this project, we believe strongly in the project and its value for the SPCA and for communities of Nova Scotia. We know that the project will have a positive benefit to communities. We are pleased that the project is broadly accepted by community stakeholders and we know that the project will directly assist us with programs that are currently underfunded.