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Paintearth County to benefit from renewable energy community funding

County of Paintearth. (Carson Ellis photo)

By Carson Ellis

For the Castor Advance

Director of Community Services Todd Pawsey addressed council at its Nov. 28 meeting.

The first item discussed was amendments to Land Use Bylaw 716-23, updating who issues the completion and other notifications inside the organization, which would clarify issues found in previous situations.

Pawsey hopes that by getting the first reading now, the bylaw can be presented to the public for input and feedback so necessary changes can be made. Since the province currently has a moratorium on energy project approvals at this time, Pawsey hopes that once the moratorium is lifted, the bylaw will be in line with how the province wishes to proceed.

The review process would also give developers who would be affected by the bylaws time to prepare for what they might be facing if they chose to begin construction projects in the county. This would help the county to appear proactive, and not reactionary. The first reading of the bylaw was given with a motion by coun George Glazier, which was carried.

Pawsey then informed council that Potentia Renewables, which oversees the Paintearth wind project, has created a community funding program worth $25,000 that will be made available to those in the county under a variety of funding options.

Director Pawsey explained the way that Potentia has made the money available in different formats; the first breakdown is in $15,000 fixed allotment for agricultural or environmental-based programs through schools. These will be paid out with the possibility of two being paid up to $4,000 for at least two. The fund will also provide scholarships for students in the district who are pursuing post-secondary programs in Science Technology, Engineering, and Math.

There is also money earmarked in the fund for community programs that provide access to recreation programs and money from the fund is available for a variety of other community-based programs.

The fund is set up with flexibility in what funds are available. This means that if more community funding is being requested, then money that is not being applied for in other areas can be moved to the areas that are in demand.

According to Director Pawsey, all applications for funds from the account will be made to the county, who will then decide on who to award the money to.

Once the decisions have been made, the county will inform Potentia of their decisions and the company will issue the necessary funds. The county would then award them to the recipients. Chief administrative officer Michael Simpson says this program is a “massive win for the community.”

It will also help establish and strengthen relationships in the community, Pawsey notes.

Pawsey also notes that Potentia has similar agreements with other communities where they have ongoing renewable energy projects. He also explained that the program comes with a 15-page agreement that stipulates what the money can, and can not, be used for. The carefully worded document is to ensure that there is no questionable use of funds, while also giving the municipality a wide scope of possible applications that could be funded under the criteria of each section.

Pawsey requested a motion to begin efforts for the program in 2024. Coun Terry Vockeroth’s motion to approve was carried.