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Human Interest / Sustainability /  •

Let the Solar Shine In

The spectre of climate change is spurring the credit union and cooperative system to take action.

Early this year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released data indicating that 2016 was the warmest year recorded since record keeping began in 1880. The Earth is now one degree warmer than in pre-industrial times and edging closer to the global warming threshold of 1.5 C set at the 2016 Paris climate conference (COP21). Confronting this problem means controlling greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and decarbonizing the global economy — removing carbon dioxide from energy sources — in order to prevent the worst effects of global warming.

The credit union and cooperative system is undertaking measures to mitigate climate change. In Summerside, PEI, plans are underway to develop a solar energy farm on the grounds of Credit Union Place, the city’s sports, music and convention centre, to power the facility. Sarah Millar, general manager at Consolidated Credit Union (7,800 members, $180 million in assets), which bought the naming rights for the facility, says the move to solar energy, which is being kickstarted by the city, will provide numerous benefits. “Using the sun for energy is going to benefit our community, Credit Union Place will save on energy and it’s good for the environment,” Millar says.

Saskatchewan’s Affinity Credit Union (117,000 members, $5 billion in assets) is also backing the transition to solar power. In 2014, Affinity donated $50,000 to a crowd-funding competition it sponsored to support an innovative new social enterprise. It allowed the winner, the Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES), to start a solar power farm in Saskatoon. The society became the SES Solar Co-Operative Ltd., which began producing clean energy since last June from 90 solar panels. The co-op’s goal is to see dozens of renewable power co-operatives across the province.

On a slightly smaller but no-less important scale, Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (510,000 members, $21 billion in assets) provides home energy loans at a low interest rate for owners wanting to make upgrades. This includes installing photovoltaic panels, which generate electric power by using solar cells to convert energy from the sun into a flow of electrons for hot water or solar electric systems. ◊