By Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko
(February 10, 2015) – What do many faith communities have in common besides shared teachings and philosophies that speak of caring for the earth?
Buildings of course, with rooftops-many of which are perfectly angled to receive the glorious light of the sun!
In Ontario, there are around 7000 religious organizations and of these, 137 have rooftop solar installations.
At Faith and the Common Good – an Ontario-based interfaith network of religious groups – the goal is to up this number.
Through their Greening Sacred Spaces (GSS) program, they’ve launched Renewable Energy Revival for Faith Communities to support Ontario’s diverse faith groups in becoming ‘solar energy’ community leaders.
GSS assists faith communities to be more sustainable in their places of worship; energy and water conservation, green audits, climate change action, divesting from fossil fuels, local food security, are just some of the work this charity delivers since 2005.
Already, of the faith communities known to have solar installations, 120 are in their network.
Thanks to Ontario’s Feed in Tariff (FIT) and Micro FIT programs (a 20-year contract with the government for renewable energy generation) faith communities continue to have a unique opportunity to be part of our clean energy future.
In recent years, through their existing Solar Faith Initiative, many faith communities have received mentoring in solar energy engagement (including educational events, case studies, presentations and so on).
Once a project has been paid off (around 9 years), the ongoing payments the religious group receives from the Independent Electricity Systems Operator (IESO) as the rooftop continues to generate power can be put towards financing initiatives and programs that fit with their mission-not only at their places of worship, but also in the broader community.
It’s a win-win situation so why haven’t more faith groups seen the light?
It seems like the excitement of the early adapters has somewhat faded.
Confidence in the program is undermined possibly because of a perceived high risk of failure.
Could it be due to the negative media stories that focus on policy implementation delays and unsuccessful FIT applications?
Revitalizing Solar for Faith Groups project aims to counteract the stalled momentum and negative perception of solar energy initiatives.
Because of the natural fit between faith groups and the FIT program, faith communities need encouragement and support to act as community role models towards less carbon-intense energy generation.
Building on their previous work-this new, yearlong initiative engages faith communities and their key decision makers by increasing knowledge and raising awareness around the role faith communities of all backgrounds are playing in contributing to a clean energy future.
Stay tuned for inspiring stories to come through Revitalizing Solar for Faith Groups about those faith groups that have already been through the process of putting up a solar energy system.
If you are a faith community looking to participate in solar, or have a solar story to tell, Revitalizing Solar for Faith Groups wants to hear from you.
Remember, there are other ways to participate in a clean energy future. One way faith groups are getting involved is by buying solar bonds from a renewable energy cooperative near you.
Visit Faith and the Common Good to learn more about the project.
[Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko is a Project Manager at Environment Hamilton. She is currently assisting faith groups green their places of worship through the Greening Sacred Spaces project. She is also working on the Eco-Theatre initiative, bringing environment, youth, and theatre together. This article was originally published on the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) website and is re-printed on IQRA.ca with the permission of the author].