The window for small FIT applications in Ontario closed on January 18th and this week we asked David Cork, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at iSolara, about how the process went and the next steps for Ontario’s solar industry.
Canadian Clean: How did the application process for the Small FIT go — what were the challenges, was it more simplified process and how did having community participation change the process?
David Cork: The online application process was pretty straightforward. There was nothing to upload; no signatures required; a couple of ambiguous questions that will likely cause some errors but overall not too bad.
A large number of questions were due to the Prescribed Forms, some of which changed late in the game. Changes to forms from FIT 1.0 and/or the acceptable supporting evidence did cause some confusion, leading to inevitable admin errors.
The re-submitted applications received a new FIT number which was completely unexpected. Many Applicants have Municipal Council resolutions (and/or Structural forms) which used the previous FIT reference number. There is no time to get those revised before the 5-day deadline.
The community and Aboriginal participation component created havoc and anxiety for many Applicants. Adding a partner to gain points required a new legal name for the Applicant which nullified any Municipal Support Resolutions and/or Structural Forms which were in the original Applicant name. Handing over 51% interest but retaining control in the new Legal Applicant should have been better documented — a "how to do it right” example would have saved many hours with lawyers.
The instructions and guidelines for Community groups left a lot to be 'interpreted'. I was party to many debates over what the OPA really wanted. A new legal entity? Un-incorporated JV? Simple name change? Unfortunately the stakes are so high — if you guess wrong, everything is terminated.
CC: What is the next step — are you anticipating that applications will be processed in two months?
DC: We are not optimistic that the OPA will get through this process in under 120 days, which is their target. They have made no commitments to communicating anything, either positive news or negative news to the Applicants.
CC: What are some of the critical signals the solar industry now needs to feel the program and the market is sustainable?
DC: The industry needs predictability. By the time they post the Offer List, it will have been over 26 months since any FIT contracts were awarded and approaching 30 months that Applicants have been sitting idle waiting for some news. You cannot build an industry like that.
The introduction of Community and Aboriginal Partners is a good strategy to build public trust and long-term goodwill. But the way it was implemented was guaranteed to reward unfair practices, to harm many legitimate early Applicants, and foster cynicism from all sides. Retroactive rulemaking does that.
The inclusion of Municipal Support was also a well-intentioned idea to correct the unhappy situation in FIT 1.0. Here again, the implementation left a lot to be desired. The range of responses from municipalities was all over the map - from aggressive action to bureaucratic stalling to opportunistic fee and/or levy charges. The number of negative stories far outweigh the positives.
The industry needs to see a sustainable future and a path to it. We are travelling blind down a road that may be ending abruptly. Certainly the LTEP doesn't hold much promise for renewables in its current state.
On April 2-4, the Ontario Feed-In Tariff Forum will offer the industry the very latest updates on the FIT program and the outlook for renewables in Ontario. Visit www.ofit2013.com
Lead image: Ontario map via Shutterstock
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