The idea was simple: Get environmentally-conscious people to pay a premium for their power, and use that extra money to support green power generation across the nation.
At first, Bullfrog figured they’d get a few thousand prosperous progressive customers. But it turned out companies were interested too, and the idea really took off. Here’s our interview with Dave Borins, director of community renewable projects.
Can you describe your business model?
When you choose renewable energy with Bullfrog Power, you are ensuring that for every kWh of electricity you purchase, a kWh from a pollution-free, renewable source is produced (by outfits like the Oxley Wind Farm in Harrow, Ontario and the Salt Spring Community Energy Group on Salt Spring Island, B.C.), and put on the grid on your behalf. Bullfrog uses the support of our customers to provide critical financial support to new renewable energy project development initiatives across Canada. By voluntarily paying a premium for green power, our customers are increasing demand for renewable energy and encouraging the development and expansion of clean energy projects.
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How have you seen the green energy scene change since Bullfrog’s foundation?
The big change in Canada has been the mainstreaming of green energy and the general acceptance of the scientific consensus on climate change. I no longer hear questions about the legitimacy of technology such as wind and solar. A decade ago, action on climate change wasn’t a major national priority, but today there is real movement on a national carbon price.
As Bullfrog Power has grown, we’ve been able to provide support to community-based renewable energy projects through our work as a social enterprise. To date, we have supported more than 70 projects across the country, from solar panels on schools to renewable energy installations with First Nations.
What are some of the more recent or significant social enterprise projects or partnerships Bullfrog’s been involved with?
One of the more recent ones was with B.C.’s Kanaka Bar Indian Band. Thanks to a $15,000 grant we gave them, they were able to expand their 4kW solar energy array to a 10 kW array.
Another was in the Northwest Territories, involving a community called Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, which became the first independent power producer in the NWT. This one was so inspiring that my predecessor for this job moved to the community. That’s how I got my job.
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What’s coming up next?
One of the ones I’m most excited about is the Iron and Earth project in Newfoundland. Their idea is to retrain oil workers to work in the renewable energy sectors. Because Newfoundland is home to so many people who have gone to work in the oil sands, this project is based in St. John’s. They’re planning to use the land of the Autism Society and they’re building a sustainably- powered greenhouse. It will be part geothermal, part solar, and it’s going to be all about food security as well. They’d already started a crowd-funding campaign, and we promised to top up whatever they didn’t get. I think it ended up being an extra $7,000-$10,000. We hope that will be completed sometime next year.