Now in operation for over a year, Echo Energy, the City of Lacombe’s energy boutique offers up a unique way to fund community projects.
The concept is simple — power is offered to local homes and businesses and the generated profits are funneled into a fund that will be used to fund community projects within Lacombe, officials say.
For Community and Economic Development Officer of the City of Lacombe, Guy Lapointe, the energy initiative has unlimited potential within the community.
“I really hope people see the potential in it,” he said. “If there are community groups with projects, they should see the potential in something like this. This could be a potential fundraising piece for them. All you would have to do is sign up for power.”
Modeled after Mountainview Power, an energy retailer created by the Olds Institute as a community sustainability initiative, Echo Energy was established in Lacombe in November 2013.
The City itself is not generating power, but acting merely as an energy retailer, competing with other big name energy retailers, but with a community-minded aspect behind it. “By partnering with Utilitynet, they have given us the ability to offer power locally with the dollars staying within the community,” said Lapointe.
All of the profits generated by Echo Energy go into the Echo Lacombe Fund, which will be managed by a community committee. The group is currently working on creating a terms of reference and will be releasing an application process for community groups in the future.
“The big idea is this will be a community-led initiative and they will direct the funds towards community projects as they see fit,” said Lapointe.
A portion of the Echo Lacombe funds will be set aside for larger projects in the community, like funding playgrounds, arenas, skateboard parks, recreation facilities etc. The other portion of funds will be set aside for community programming, where there will be an immediate benefit.
The service is offered to everyone who needs electricity — apartments, houses, small businesses and larger businesses.
While Echo Energy is an electricity retailer within the City and profits from the utility service will support local projects, the service is not limited to just the City of Lacombe. Residents and businesses within Lacombe County, Blackfalds and Red Deer are also able to sign up.
“The sky is really the limit in terms of who we can work with here,” said Lapointe.
So far, around 125 homes or businesses have signed up for Echo Energy, but with 5,000 residences and approximately 600 businesses located in Lacombe, the opportunity for the initiative to expand could be a reality, he said.
“There is a lot of potential in it,” said Lapointe. “If people can make that change and see the potential in it, I think we would estimate at 1,500 accounts, we are talking about $200,000 annually would be going into the fund.”
Over a five-year period, close to a million dollars could be generated for the fund.
Currently, with just over 100 accounts signed on, around $10,000 annually will be generated towards the Echo Lacombe Fund.
“If we could have 1,500 accounts, that number goes up exponentially,” said Lapointe. “We would have a lot more power to do things within the community.”
Lapointe said Echo Energy doesn’t currently sell gas but he hopes the retailer will be able to offer it in the future.