McGuinty Government Learns Lesson from Harper – MicroFIT Solar Power Program CUTS by Richard Komorowski – July 11, 2010
Cornwall ON – Following the Harper government’s unprecedented lead in cancelling its part of the ecoEnergy refit program last March, a year ahead of schedule, the McGuinty Liberal government has announced it is cutting some of the rates paid to producers under the province’s MicroFIT program.
The Ontario Power Authority, which administers the program, cites an overwhelming popularity for ground mounted solar projects. Since the program was announced last October the OPA has received around 16,000 applications.
The Green Energy Act, passed last year, promised to bring 50,000 new jobs to the province. Some of these jobs have already been created – many more are in the works as installation of solar panels gains in popularity. According to industry sources, many of these jobs are now in jeopardy as potential customers cancel their orders.
The Green Energy Act also put the province in the forefront of preparing for a future without fossil fuels, so this latest step by the OPA seriously questions the act’s credibility.
The original idea of the MicroFIT program was to pay potential producers enough to make investing in solar technology financially worthwhile. Those who have their projects already up and running, or have had them approved by the OPA have nothing to fear at the moment. The price they receive is guaranteed in a 20 year contract.
The OPA right now is offering to maintain the 80.2¢ tariff for new rooftop installations, but is dropping the price on “ground mounted” installations, the ones that would be particularly suited to farmers, stating that ground installations are cheaper to install. This is contrary to what industry sources are saying.
According to their press release, “The OPA believes the new price category is fair, reasonable, more accurately reflects the costs associated with ground-mounted projects and maintains the long-term stability of the program,” says Colin Andersen, Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Power Authority. “It enables the program to continue to meet its original goals and provides proper value to both generators and ratepayers.”
The OPA is promising a 30-day comment period on the proposed new price category. Please send all comments and submissions to the OPA. While all emails will be read, not all emails will receive individual responses.
Comments also can be mailed to the following address and must be postmarked no later than Tuesday, August 3, 2010.
Ontario Power Authority
120 Adelaide Street West, Suite 1600
Toronto, Ontario M5H 1T1
Attention: Ground-Mounted Solar PV
Brad Duguid, Ontario’s Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, said on Friday that in recent months the OPA has received around 10,000 applications for ground-mount projects that were essentially “flooding” the program. If the OPA were to honour all of those applications it would cost ratepayers $1 billion over the 20-year lifespan of those contracts.
This might well be true, however, the press release has been buried in the OPA website since July 2. It did not become common knowledge until last Friday. When the Harper government reneged on its promise to maintain its part of the ecoEnergy program, it did at least allow people who had already applied for the program prior to its closure to remain eligible. The Ontario Government, however, does not appear to be considering this option.
“All other ground-mounted microFIT projects, including those for which an application has been submitted but have not yet received a contract or conditional contract offer, will receive the price following consultations on the proposed 58.8¢/kWh. Ground-mounted microFIT applications will be processed following the 30-day comment period.”