Canadian Sustainable Energy Pioneers Win Probyn Prize

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November 16, 2011 – Robert McLeese and his late father Willis McLeese are this year’s recipients of the Stephen Probyn Prize for their remarkable achievements in the clean energy business, and for their work that has had a positive impact on climate change and sustainable development.

“For decades, Robert McLeese and his father have continued to innovate and take unprecedented steps to ensure renewable energy projects got off the ground. The McLeeses are amongst a handful of individuals who created the framework that allows us today to produce renewable energy so effectively,” said David Butters, President of APPrO. “For these reasons, they are the perfect candidates for the Probyn Prize as they had the vision to see the potential of renewable energy and took bold steps to make it a reality.”

Presentation of the 2011 Probyn Prize on November 15 2011: (Left to right) Colin Coolican, President of Regional Power and member of the Selection Committee, Rob McLeese, President of Access Capital and Winner of the 2011 Probyn Prize, and Barbara Eastman, President of the Probyn Group.

Pioneering work

The father and son team began developing a portfolio of sustainable energy projects in the 1980s and broke into the Canadian market in the 1990s, providing many small and medium-sized companies the funding and development support needed to invest in environmental projects. Their leadership has allowed for significant advances in the sustainable energy sector; providing counsel and financial support, which helped to ensure the implementation of countless power projects across Canada and the USA.  Some of these projects include:

·  White River (White River, Ontario): Financial advisor to the project, now in the final throes of construction planning and fundraising, for two hydro projects which will produce 95,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy annually.

·  United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising First Nations (UCCMM) (Manitoulin Island, Ontario):  Advisor to UCCMM regarding the development and financing of their portion of a 60 megawatt wind farm project.

·  Potter Station Power (Timmins, Ontario): Financial advisor who assisted with development and financing of a 6 megawatt waste heat recovery project which evolved into a 42 megawatt (approx.) waste heat recovery and gas fired project.

· Piney Creek Limited Partnership (Clarion, Pennsylvania): Advisor on purchase, financing, and optimization of a 33 megawatt waste coal fired power plant (270,000 megawatt-hours of annual production) - Winner of 2001 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.

·  Colmac Energy (Mecca, California): 47 megawatt biomass project – developed, financed, constructed, and operated (360,000 megawatt-hours per year of production).

The Probyn Prize

The Probyn Prize commemorates the leadership of the late Stephen Probyn who was one of the originators of Canada’s green energy industry, a leading financier in the sector, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on renewable energy development.

Commenting on the award win, Robert McLeese said: “I am thrilled to receive the Probyn Prize and hope it sends a positive message that encourages other Canadian businesses to see the environmental development opportunities in the power generation market. It is truly an honour working with such great Canadian companies helping to develop predictable renewable energy solutions.”

Robert McLeese accepted the Probyn Prize on behalf of himself and his late father at APPrO’s annual banquet dinner, attended by more than 500 members of Canada’s energy and sustainable development industry, on November 15, 2011. Winners of the prize are presented with a three-foot bronze sculpture by leading Canadian artist Colin Gibson and the opportunity to direct a donation of $10,000 to a registered charity of their choice. Robert McLeese will donate the prize funds to Ontario-based Georgian Riding Association for Challenged Equestrians (GRACE) located in Owen Sound, near the McLeeses’ environmentally sustainable Cobble Beach Golf Resort and Spa.

Robert McLeese

Rob McLeese is currently the President and founder of Access Capital, a company dedicated to independent power project financing. McLeese is a Past President of IPPSO (the Independent Power Producers’ Society of Ontario) and past Chairman of the Toronto Board of Trade Electricity Task Force. He is also a past Director and Treasurer of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, a past Member of the Board of Management of the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Energy and a past Director of Creststreet Power and Income Fund which developed three wind farms totaling 149 megawatts. In his current role, Robert McLeese has assisted Access Capital in successfully completing over $1.8 billion in independent power project financing.

Willis McLeese

One of the early leaders in Ontario’s independent power industry, Willis McLeese initiated the development of a 47 megawatt biomass fuelled electric generating station in California that provides power sufficient to supply about 50,000 homes. That business grew to include locations in Pennsylvania, Utah and Montana and eventually Canada. Climate change became his focus over the last fifteen years of his career, addressing issues between civil society, the private sector, and all levels of government. He was drawn towards change that was sustainable, where businesspeople, policymakers and activists could find common ground and balance economic, political and environmental goals. Along with his son, Rob McLeese, the family has been one of the leading voices for independent power production in Ontario. Willis McLeese passed away on January 5, 2011.


APPrO is a non-profit organization representing more than 100 companies involved in the generation of electricity in Ontario, including generators, suppliers of services, equipment and consulting services. APPrO members produce power from nuclear, hydro, fossil, wind, biomass and other energy sources. APPrO's members currently produce over 95% of the electricity generated in Ontario. For more information, please visit

The Probyn Prize

The Probyn Prize honours the achievements of Stephen Probyn, one of the early leaders in the Canadian renewable energy industry. The Probyn Prize is presented periodically to a deserving individual or organization for significant advances and achievements in financial markets, public policy or science and technology which promote action on climate change and sustainable development. The nomination is open to all members of the public and the winner is chosen by the Probyn Prize Selection Committee.

For a copy of the presentation that accompanied the announcement, including more background information and photos on the Prize and on Robert and Willis McLeese, please click here.



Presentation of the 2011 Probyn Prize on November 15 2011: (Left to right) Dave Butters, President of APPrO and Rob McLeese, President of Access Capital and Winner of the 2011 Probyn Prize.


For a high resolution copy of the photo above, please click here.


For a high resolution copy of the photo from the top of this story, please click here.



For more information, please contact:

Megan Ramsay, Hill & Knowlton
Phone: 416-413-4602
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




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