Frequently Asked Questions
What sort of risks are involved?
While no investment is ever risk-free, we believe that a portfolio of solar power projects with guaranteed 20-year contracts with the provincial government is a relatively low risk opportunity. This is reflected in the fair – but not excessive – rate of return being offered. Solar power is a mature technology whose average output can be relatively easily predicted over twenty years, and solar panels carry 25-year performance warranties. Sound construction, operation and maintenance contracts will be in place to ensure optimal outcomes for members, while long-term financing will reduce the risk from inflation. Finally, projects will be insured so as to mitigate the impact of unforeseen events.
As a non-profit company, what happens to any operating surplus?
The operating surplus generated by each co-operative (net of reasonable administrative costs) will be transferred to the Community Wealth Non-Profit to be used for funding new developments with a sufficient amount set aside to support the guarantees on existing co-operatives.
What happens if I want to withdraw my money or pass my bond on to another person?
Any time after 5 years, you can request to be replaced as a member. Once a replacement member is found, withdrawal is subject to a payment equivalent to 2% of the capital being withdrawn, with withdrawals permissible only in increments equivalent to a full bond. For example, after five years owning a single community bond, the withdrawal fee would be $3,750 (principal amount remaining) * 0.02 = $75. The same fee applies even if you are bringing in the new member yourself – such as a friend or family member. The community bond can also be willed.
What's the most money I can put into this?
While we encourage members to invest as much as they are comfortable with, no member will be permitted to invest more than 10% of their co-op’s equity share in a project. For example, with a project in which an Options co-op has an equity interest of $600,000, no member could invest more than $60,000. Pledges so far have ranged from $5,000 to $200,000 – the latter of which would almost certainly be spread across two or more projects.
When will the projects be built and when will my payments start?
Interest payments are calculated from the date of the first incremental $5,000 bond purchase funds withdrawal from the escrow account, with the first payments due a year from that date. This date may come at different times for different members depending on the needs of the development portfolio and on the nature of the final agreements signed with the construction partners.
How will you choose who gets to invest in a project?
Options will do its best to allow members to invest in projects based first on the principle of allowing members of the local community in which the project is being hosted the first opportunity to invest; second in allowing members outside the local community who live within the municipality, to invest in the order they became members of the co-operative and thirdly allowing members outside the municipality to invest in the order they became members of the co-operative . In the case of a community where members joined during the same member drive (for example the FIT 2.1 membership drive in Oct. 2012 to Jan. 2013) if the demand for bonds exceeds supply, purchasers from the community will be chosen by lottery. Any bonds available after local purchaser demand has been met will then be offered to the members of the co-operative who live outside the local community but within the municipality on the same basis. Any bonds available after members in the municipality have purchased will then be offered to members who live outside the municipality, in the order in which they joined the co-operative.
How long does it take to develop a project from the time a FIT contract is awarded?
All rooftop projects awarded contracts by the OPA will reach commercial operation within 18 months of the contract being awarded while ground-mounted projects have up to 3 years to do so.
How will you choose where you are going to make the investments?
The co-op’s boards and their advisors have compiled a list of minimum technical requirements and financial profitability benchmarks in order to qualify projects for which co-op-owned contracts will be applied. The 2014-2015 portfolio will include projects typically between 100kW and 500kW, at various stages of project readiness and, wherever possible, in a range of geographical areas and hydro service territories. The aim of this diversity is twofold – to reach out to a wider number of communities, and to spread both the risks and the timelines so as to give greatest flexibility.
What are my obligations and opportunities as a co-op member?
As a member, you will be required to vote on certain aspects of your co-op’s management as and when new opportunities arise or as circumstances change. The majority of the strategic and operational decisions will be taken by each co-op’s board. You can become a member of your co-operative’s board through the process of nomination and voting as outlined in the by-laws. As is usual, each individual co-op member has one vote, regardless of the size of their investment.
Are there any restrictions on who can become a member of the Options co-ops?
Only residents of Ontario can participate, though you are not required to be a citizen of Canada to be a member. You might also have read that we’re looking for members who own property in the same municipalities as the projects we’re applying for. While that’s true, membership of Options co-ops – and thus the opportunity to purchase community bonds – is open to all residents of Ontario, no matter where in the province they live. Lastly, if you have a financial interest in one of the construction company partners, you can join one of the co-ops and purchase community bonds, but your membership cannot be included for consideration as one of the 50 local members required by the OPA.
How will I know how well the project is doing? Can I see how much energy it is generating?
Part of the purchase price for all projects will include online energy production monitoring equipment. The output of the co-op’s portfolio of projects will be viewable in real time (live) on the co-op’s website.