Report Urges Regulations to Encourage Micropower in Canada

Government and industry regulators in Canada have been challenged to allow micropower technologies to grow.

TORONTO, Ontario, CA, 2001-12-06 [] “There is an accelerating world demand for environmentally friendly power, generated with photovoltaic arrays, wind turbines, fuel cells and microturbines,” says a report on utility interconnection prepared by Electro-Federation Canada for energy and industry departments of the Canadian government. “There is a huge potential market among homeowners and small business operators for these ‘green’ micropower sources.” The four technologies require inverters and share common barriers when it comes to interconnecting, and “the challenge for governments and regulators is to allow this new industry to grow in a way that is both safe and efficient,” notes the report. Connecting small, privately-owned generators to the grid has many benefits for the economy, and micropower generators have “the potential to improve air quality, reduce environmental damage related to coal or oil-fired generation, and provide greater security in the event of energy shortages.” Provinces must have appropriate technical standards that “allow for consistent manufacturing and installation practices, and reduce the costs, paperwork and safety problems that now prevent many people from using these new technologies,” explains the 42-page document. It summarizes the state of PV, wind turbines, fuel cells and microturbines by identifying standards and codes that exist in the country, those that are lacking, and those in other countries that could serve as references. A priority is a static inverter standard that would address safety issues on grid interconnection for any micropower technology larger than 25 kVA. Another need is a Canadian interconnection guideline or standard to cover all micropower technologies. The report emphasizes that international standards should be adopted whenever possible, as opposed to the development of domestic standards. The federal government does not have legal authority to regulate the industry, so “it is important that provincial regulators understand the importance of adopting national or international standards, and of enforcing consistency within their jurisdictions.” Many electrical and building inspectors are not familiar with micropower or interconnection issues and may be “reluctant” to approve installations. Once standards have been harmonized, there should be “a significant effort to inform front-line workers throughout the industry.” PV panels are “a well-established technology, but rules that were designed for large capacity generators often constitute a huge barrier to the marketing of small rooftop systems,” it notes. “Requirements need to be reviewed to cope with the new reality of small residential systems application.” Wind energy standards in Canada have not kept pace with rapid changes in the technology, and there is a need to ensure that issues of cold-weather turbine installation are addressed. The report was prepared to provide technical information on the development of a national guideline for micropower interconnection in Canada.
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