Ontario Feed-in Tariffs Could Cascade Across Nation

Canada’s solar energy industry association is urging that the Ontario government follow the lead of many European countries and enact a feed-in tariff to promote renewable energy. The policy approach, moving from obscurity to its infancy in the nearby U.S., has been wildly successful in European countries like Spain and Germany, where its helped spur double-digit percentage growth in solar photovoltaic energy.

This week, the Canadian Solar Energy Industries Association (CanSIA) released its report entitled Valuing Solar Electricity – Priming the Market in Ontario. The trade group is recommending the adoption of a feed-in tariff rate of CAD $0.42 per kWh (USD $.33 cents) for residential solar PV systems under 3 kW that are connected to Ontario’s power grid. “The rate that we are calling for is significantly less than in most of other nations.” said Rob McMonagle, Executive Director of CanSIA. “It will however stimulate the Ontario market in a sustainable way – allowing the necessary infrastructures such as trained installers, component manufacturers, and knowledgeable safety inspectors to be put in place,” Ontario’s provincial Liberal Party has recently recommended the adoption of Feed-in Tariffs for renewable energy technologies at its annual policy convention. Feed-in Tariffs pay individual homeowners for the electricity that they produce and which is feed into the utility power grid. Feed-in tariffs are an acknowledged mechanism that place a value on the many societal benefits supplied by solar to the grid. McMonagle said it allows for the costs to be accounted for in a similar fashion as large power generators such as nuclear or hydro and to spread that cost over the ratepayer base. Countries as diverse as Germany, Spain, Japan, and Cambodia now offer this mechanism to homeowners. “Canada lags the rest of the world in support of solar technologies,” McMonagle said. “On a per capita basis we have less than 26 percent of the installations of countries such as Austria, Germany and the Netherlands while government support for solar deployment is less than 14 percent of international averages. CanSIA’s plan calls for the installation of 15,000 systems in Ontario by 2015. More importantly, it will increase annual sales from the current level of 50-60 grid-connected systems sold per year to annual sales of 5,000 per year by 2015, according to the organization. Ontario, predicts McMonagle, could provide the starting point in Canada for solar to become a major energy provider and is recommending that other provinces consider implementing feed-in tariffs to support the growth of solar across Canada. “By 2015 we foresee a vibrant solar market in Ontario — with the installation of over 14 MW of new solar power annually with sales doubling every three years,” McMonagle said. CanSIA in its Sunny Days Ahead Strategy projects that there could be over 13,000 MW of solar electricity on homes in Ontario by 2025 if supportive policies are put in place soon. “Ontario is facing a serious energy crisis in the coming years – both in energy generation and in transmission capacity,” McMonagle said. “Ontario’s energy problems will not be solved with short term solutions and solar is uniquely suited to meet the long term energy needs for Ontario’s homeowners. However before solar can begin to be a major supplier of electricity – we need to build our base. It is critical for the Ontario government to act now so that solar can fulfill its role as a major electrical supplier in the future.” CanSIA’s Ontario PV Industry Caucus has had positive meeting with the Ontario government on its plan and is confident that the government is seriously looking at this mechanism to kick-start the solar market in Ontario. Related links follow…
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