MaRS Library Case Studies in Social Innovation: Bullfrog Power
Energy sources such as coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear are polluting and detrimental not only to the environment but also the long-term health and sustainability of our communities. In 2005, social entrepreneurs Greg Kiessling and Tom Heintzman recognized that change was needed and took action. They knew that to finance a renewable-energy project, organizations and individuals had to secure a government contract. They also knew that there was no current market for renewable electricity.
That year, Greg Kiessling and Tom Heintzman co-founded Bullfrog Power with the audacious goal of transforming the electricity landscape in Canada. They offered a non-conventional, green-energy choice to individuals and the business community.
Bullfrog Power: Offering Canadians green energy choices
Bullfrog Power’s idea was simple, yet its impact has been huge. The company’s generators inject 100% green electricity on to the grid to match the amount of electricity “Bullfrog-powered” homes and businesses use. In 2011, Bullfrog broadened its scope to include a different energy source: natural gas. The company’s green natural gas is produced by capturing and cleaning gas produced through the decay of organic matter in our everyday waste stream.
The renewable energy rollout began in Ontario and then expanded to Alberta, British Columbia and the Maritimes. By 2013, Bullfrog Power was available nationwide. As more and more Canadians choose to reduce their emission footprint and embrace renewable energy, the green energy movement continues to grow.
Bullfrog Power also leverages customer demand to support the development of green energy projects in Canada. Its business model is unique not only in its approach but in how it empowers customers to take a public stand. Those choosing to use the product to power their home or business send a message that they support and believe in renewable energy and its potential to create a clean, healthy future.
In 2013, more than 7,000 homes and more than 1,300 organizations were using energy from Bullfrog Power. With an increased “green awareness” in the business community, and with events such as the JUNO Awards, the Rogers Cup and the East Coast Music Awards powered by Bullfrog, corporate Canada has seen the development of green operations, supply chains and brands.
Bullfrog has also commissioned several new wind projects to meet the demand of homes and businesses and has partnered with Unilever Canada on the biggest commercial green power agreement in Canadian history. Unilever Canada—as part of its Sustainable Living Plan—has become the single largest commercial purchaser of renewable energy in Canada, purchasing 61,543 MWh of electricity annually from Bullfrog Power.
As a Certified B Corporation, Bullfrog Power is required to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. Bullfrog is currently working with partners on advancing new renewable energy projects at the community level.
Growth: Challenges and expansion
Since 2008, Bullfrog Power has been profitable but the company does face challenges. Over the past few years, the media and many Canadians seem to have lost some interest in environmental issues and climate change. Government has yet to determine its best approach on the environmental front, and despite the accomplishments of Bullfrog Power, in most provinces its green electricity accounts for less than 10% of the standard mix.
Despite these challenges, in 2012 Bullfrog Power moved into a third energy category. The company now offers Canadians a renewable energy solution in all three traditional energy categories: electricity, heat and transportation. It partnered with Chevrolet Canada to launch the Chevrolet Volt Bullfrog Power Edition, Canada’s first electric vehicle (EV) to come with two years’ worth of emissions-free, renewable electricity. At the end of 2012, Bullfrog Power announced a further expansion involving a partnership with SolarShare. Through the agreement, Bullfrog Power will provide financing to SolarShare, a not-for-profit co-operative that builds—and enables Ontarians to invest in—community-based solar energy installations across the province.
The Case Studies in Social Innovation database is a joint initiative between SiG @ MaRS and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.