McGuinty Government Deliberately Conceals its Cuts to Solar Power? By Richard Komorowski – Cornwall Ontario – July 12, 2010

Cornwall ON – The Government of Ontario operates quite a nice news room on its website, highlighting some of the events happening around the province. It’s designed particularly for members of the press. It also has a service which will email press releases, media events including cabinet ministers, etc. I subscribe to this service.

Of course, this is the government website, so obviously everything in it is from the point of view of the government. I don’t have a problem with this; the provincial government, along with every other group or individual in the province, has the right to put forth its opinion. Indeed, I find this service very useful.

Since July 1, I have received 22 emails from this service. Three concerned the Royal visit, three were about the strike (now resolved) at INCO, in Sudbury, four were smog advisories, six were miscellaneous (appointment of a new OPP chief, for example), and six extolled the virtues of the new HST tax. One typical title is: McGuinty Government’s Tax Reform Benefits High-Tech Industry. Not ONE of these emails gave any hint of the cuts to the Green Energy Act’s MicroFIT program.

As anyone who reads this column knows, I have been a steady proponent of the Green Energy Act, passed last year. I believe it is a good act – indeed excellent, as it makes Ontario just about the only jurisdiction in North America to take the future fuel shortage seriously (e.g. Peak Oil), and proposes a workable plan to minimise this impact on the province. Although I am not a great fan of McGuinty, this act alone would have guaranteed him my vote in the next provincial election.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered, quite by accident, that the tariffs for alternate energy were changed without notice. The Green Energy Act includes a provision for individuals and companies to produce electricity from renewable resources, e.g. wind, solar, biogas, biomass, etc. As the technology for generating electricity this was is still in its infancy, and consequently relatively expensive compared to a coal-fired generating station, the prices paid to producers were significantly higher than what Hydro One charges.

Now, granted, the government is paying way more than market price for solar electricity, and this price cannot remain forever. The reason it is paying such a high price is to give producers (homeowners, farmers) a decent rate of return. The increased market for solar energy supplies encourages research and innovation in the industry, which in turn will lower the costs of generation.

However, the provincial Liberals played dirty. Announcing a cut in rates is one thing. But to cut the rates for people who have invested many thousands of dollars pending approval of their contract is unethical, even by Harper standards.

McGuinty seems to have learned about timing such announcements from Harper too. The news of the cuts was not made on any official government news website, but was buried in the Ontario Power Authority website. It was posted on Friday, July 2, when many people were celebrating an extra long weekend, which virtually guaranteed its secrecy.

The announcement cites too many people are applying, and it’s taking too long to process the applications. McGuinty claims the Green Energy Act will result in 50,000 new jobs in the province. Too bad half a dozen of these new jobs weren’t given to people who could process the backlog of applications.

There is a 30 day period where the Ontario Power Authority will hear submissions about the changes. However, because of the timing of the announcement, and the deliberate attempt to hide it, the appeal period is less than three weeks in reality.

Those affected, or wishing to comment on the situation, can contact the OPA. You can also email the Minister, Brad Duguid, and local MPP Jim Brownell, with your comments.


  1. Here’s a letter I wrote my MPP on this issue:
    Dear Ms. Pendergast,

    I’m a businessman living in Conestogo and I’d like to address the announcement by the OPA proposing a rate reduction from 80.2 cents per watt to 58.8 cents for ground-mounted solar arrays.

    The ground-mount rate reduction was announced saying that installation costs are the major factor in the greater return-on-investment (ROI) of ground mount systems. This isn’t true.

    These modern ground units are mounted on state-of-the art solar technology and a completely installed 10kW system costs in the area of $100,000.00. They are not cheaper than roof-mounted systems. What they are – is more efficient. But its the government itself that set the microFIT limit at 10kWs and these systems CANNOT generate more than that 10kW ceiling. So, what’s being penalized here is a few pennies more of efficiency. What the OPA is saying is – “You can have a 10kW system, but if your system actually produces 10kW most of the time, we’re going to cut your returns by 25 percent.”

    Even at that, none of our ground-mounted system customers project returns of more than 11%. So the government is rewarding inefficiency and penalizing intelligent thinking and design.

    Under George Smitherman as Energy Minister, the OPA had positioned Ontario to be a leader in the North American market. But Minister Duguid’s kind of government-think is a recipe for a 2nd class solar industry that will never be able to compete in the North American market.

    On the sensitive issue of ratepayers, the solution to percieved high rates for citizen-owned solar arrays is written right into the program. Unlike everything else government touches, the program is designed to ramp down over the coming years paying less and less to new applicants as time goes on. The same model is at work in Germany which just made a (pre-announced) 25% cut in its rates after 10 years. But not before it had spawned the world’s most mature solar industry. An industry incidently that rivals or perhaps by now surpasses the huge auto-industry in Germany. And isn’t that the whole point of the Feed-In-Tarrif program in the Green Energy and Green Economy Act – to pay higher rates at the beginning in order to incubate an Ontario based solar industry?

    And guess what. It was working – until the day this announcement came from the OPA. Now the fledgling industry is already crippled – shot in the leg by it creator. People are being laid off. International suppliers are demanding full cash-up -front instead of down payments because they don’t trust the Ontario government anymore. The confidence and optimism that had been built up over time is being demolished in mere days.

    The OPA sat on ground-mount applications for months, while the applicants invested time and money, and while businesses ramped up, confident in assurances from OPA that no reasonable application would be rejected and that the price per watt was iron-clad until the next review – in September 2011! Literally thousands of Ontario citizens and businesses have been seriously affected by the broken promise in this irrational pronouncement by the OPA.

    The consequences of all of this are huge. What the government stands to lose is so much more than what the Minister hopes to gain in short-term political points. All of North America is watching this FIT experiment in the province of Ontario – and we really do have the opportunity to be a leader, a supplier, a guide for the rest of the continent. So are we just going to blow our reputation as an honest broker on the world stage, and destroy a fledgling industry and a lot of personal investment in the process? That would be a huge set-back for everyone who promotes alternative energy solutions in North America.

    Someone in the Ontario government isn’t thinking about the province’s own stated goals in the Green Energy Act – and that’s dangerous right now, because everything is in place to move Ontario ahead to be a continental leader in an inevitable industry. Some province or state is going to lead the clean energy revolution. Apparently its NOT going to be Ontario.

    I don’t want to see this opportunity lost because some individual couldn’t see the the unintended consequences of his actions. Premier McGuinty has to rein in the Minister of Energy. I don’t care if he resigns or stays. We just need him to reverse this unbeliveably inept decision.

    Drew MacGillivray

    co Owner/Operator Endless Energy Inc.
    (past Environmental Lead
    Centre for Applied Renewable Energy, CfARE, Brussels)

  2. So, none of those 22 emails concerned a tax/fine (insert name here) on consumers buying electronics to dish soap either? Of course, that was from Stewardship Ontario, which must be an arm of the gov’t. Who else can just put a charge on things we use everyday. HST on heating fuel, now more for dish soap. ( I was not sure that I could continue typing for a family audience there for a second)

    Good for you Mr. MacGillivray, more people need to A, take notice of this provincial government tax and spend and B, do something like a letter to as many people as you can.

  3. I think the only way I will ever vote for the provincial Liberals again would be if they got rid of McGuinty and Duguid. It’s a shame, because some of their policies were good, far better than anything the Tories have to offer.

  4. This is sickening to say the least, yet not surprising. How many times do people have to be lied to before they get it? Dalton McGuinty is a manipulator, a smoothie and he is on his way to bankrupting this province. Scary!

  5. Author

    He’s as bad as that Stephen Harper! Makes you think there’s not a huge difference between the two main political parties of Canada 🙂

  6. Well now Jamie…I still have to say that I would rather him than anyone else out there. Give him a majority and we might get better results.

  7. Author

    Tammy reading this article it sounds like the G20 was placed in Toronto to be used a propaganda tool against Mr. McGuinty.

  8. Jamie you have to know Randy Hillier, he pulls no punches. He might be a Conservative but he is more of a libertarian. He is a true believer in democracy and Canada’s Constitution and Charter of Rights.
    He doesn’t give a damn about being politically correct…its about having common sense and just plain decency, and as little government as possible. Its not hard to agree with that!

  9. Author

    Tammy it’s also called being single minded and stubbon. That if people don’t agree with you they’re wrong or idiots. I was taught as a young person that “there’s always someone smarter out there than me, and someone smarter than that person.”

    There is rarely one “right way” to resolve any issue. There are implications to every action or inaction. We need to stop mimicking the US and start working together to find common ground and solutions that will get results for all Canadians.

    My personal political fight is Medicare. I don’t want a US style health care system. I don’t like the threat to Canadian Sovereignty that NAFTA is holding over our heads.

    Now that’s my personal “Big Issue” for others they have their own and as a politician I’m sure around your council table there have been times when you really want something pushed through and other councilors have their pet projects.

    There’s a fork in the road between a “LIBER”tarian and a “LIBER”al that I’m personally comfortable visiting. What I do know is that Stephen Harper’s form of government has very little to do with Libertarianism and certainly isn’t Liberal. I’m not even sure at times it’s Conservative and it certainly isn’t Progressively Conservative.

  10. NO WAY…Randy is well read and intelligent, like myself of course. He is a good listener, like myself and is well rounded…you can draw your own conclusions, but you dont even know the guy. I would agree, that sometimes I do have to wonder if Stephen Harper is in fact a Conservative. You do have a point.

  11. Author

    Tammy I’ve followed Randy in the news for years; way before he became a MP. There do seem to be an awful lot of Libertarians in Eastern Ontario….

  12. Admin: with your statement ” I’m not even sure at times it’s Conservative and it certainly isn’t Progressively Conservative.” I think you are right! He’s turning Green!

  13. Though I think McGuinty is an extortionist I think Mr. Komorowski is on a conspiracy theory here. We work with government rules and regs everyday. It is not just for the people in this article.

    It is the business owner’s unfortunate responsibility to keep abreast of changes, be they right or wrong.

    If we really want to create change then it has to be a united front. Right now everyone is just looking for their best interest, courtesy of our upbringing and peer pressure most do not even realize it.

    Why not find a reputable media host ( hint hint Jamie opportunity knocks) to form a huge rally or petition to have the provincial government dissolve the Crown Corp Hydro one/OPG. Competition creates price wars not a monopoly. Next we can take care of AECL and LCBO.

    AECL alone is causing problems with Chalk RIver waiting to see what the governmet is going to do regarding the Crown Corp issue. So much for a Crown Corp aka Ontario government caring bout radio isotopes for Cancer patients.

    BTW Mc Master Universtiy has the capability to produce the isotopes.

    As for the solar energy thing, has anybody ever completed a true in-depth feasibility study? It is not the most efficient method of energy creation. Besides it is not more energy we need but a better way to deliver it.

    Right now with all the water we have in Canada why are we not solely hydro electric?

    Is there any cleaner more efficient method of creating electricity?

    Efficient being the key word….

  14. Richard
    Why would we not support research into DC power distribution? It is a more efficient system safer and can travel greater distances with less line loss.

    There are inventions using DC systems however like the Pogue carburetor and the Tucker automobile, doing it better or right is frowned upon.

  15. Something to consider when looking at how the Deomcratic Canadian liberal party in Ontario runs the system and how our province is actually run. It is not new by any means, different names and different applications but the same ssituation. Why it happens is our general lack of education.

    Three primary elements characterized feudalism: lords, vassals, and fiefs; the group of feudalism can be seen in how these three elements fit together. A lord granted land (a fief) to his vassals. In exchange for the fief, the vassal would provide military service to the lord. The obligations and relations between lord, vassal and fief form the basis of feudalism.

  16. Lets get back to the Federal politics, who in hell would vote for a man like Ignatieff after his childish comments at an Orleans BBQ comparing Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Satan.
    At a BBQ in Orleans, Igi made these childish remarks ” You know you smell the whiff of sulphur coming off the guy,” said Ignatieff in reference to the prime minister. Saying someone has the whiff
    of sulphur about them has a long history in both literature and religious writing of referring to Satan.”
    How desperate he truly is. I was asked to go visit him in Cornwall…fat chance that will ever happen.

    Smee, you make some good points, with regards to selling off the big crown corporations such as LCBO, AECL,OPG I agree with you, privatize them all.

  17. Globe and Mail: With demise of Supercorp, search for windfall stymied, Karen Howlett,
    Toronto Star: Problems force Liberal retreat on SuperCorp, Robert Benzie

    The Conservatives dont seem to want to move in that direction, I dont get it?

  18. Tammy: I wouldn’t vote for Iggy. Actually I can’t vote for Iggy. He won’t be running in our riding. I would vote for Bernadette though. She seems really nice, especially compared to Guy Smiley.

  19. The Progressive Conservatives, who sold highway 407 when the government was looking to raise cash in 1999 to balance its books. The Tories sold the road, built with taxpayers’ money, to a private firm in a 99-year lease for $3.1 billion.

  20. Rodney, do you want a nice politician or a politician that will do the job?

  21. That was provincial willie, not federal.

  22. willie, 407 is owned by a conglomerate, not just one company, One of which is a Canadian firm.

    Besides Harris and company were cleaning up after Bob Rae and the NDP screwed everything up. The money from the hiway was needed

  23. Rick
    any comments on the post?

  24. You Conservative/Reform can justify anything when it comes to a dollar. Bob Rae was a liberal in NDP clothing.

  25. He still is willie

  26. Regarding the rate fiasco. This is a 20 year contract, rates will raise and to my knowledge there is no plans for adjustments for inflation. The seemingly high rates will turn the other way as the contract nears it’s end. Just ask Newfoundland how their long term contract went with the Churchill Falls Dam in the 70’s.
    Good luck trying to compare solar to our current pricing. It has been so subsidized and perverted by bean counters that were hired by successive politicians trying to save their careers that nothing resembles anywhere near the truth.
    Instead a few people that actually believe this is such a bad deal put pressure on McGuinty and unfortunately he caved. Everyone should have supported McGuinty with this deal in the beginning and perhaps he would have ignored the misinformed bad press.
    There were many mistakes made throughout the program one of the first although well intentioned was the Ontario content ruling. If modifications weren’t made no projects could have proceeded and we are approaching the December deadline which also looks impossible. Most people in the industry know it takes up to 3 years to build a solar module plant, not one year. If any plants begin producing there will be a shortage of Ontario content and prices will rise dramatically.
    The July 2 announcement was a complete fiasco. It seems like the backlog was a result of holding things back in order to figure out what to do. Many Ontarions invested and got screwed believing there would be no price changes for two years.It would have been considerate to make the cutoff date on applications on the announcement date. That would have spared the people that signed up and made investments for their future and announced integrity. There are still more losers. Companies large and small, domestic and foreign that invested heavily to supply the demand. One of the pillars that held up FIT program was job creation. That will be diminished by who knows how much. Business plans are based on stable numbers, no-one will invest in uncertainty..
    It was also obvious that there is a lot of misinformation among the decision makers. First the OPA claimed ground mount were cheaper and therefore had an unfair advantage. A ground mount requires more money spent on concrete that the cost of roof mounting before the hardware is erected. All ground mounts are not same. A ground mount will make as much power as a roof mount if there is no tracker to follow the sun. What would happen if you made a roof mount that could track the sun? Yet they got penalized the same. There are great differences in power production depending on your location by a lot. If unfair advantages were the problem location have been addressed. They clearly were misinformed or were scrambling to hide their mistake.
    I hope the right thing will be done after the consultation period and restore our faith in the FIT and Microfit programs as well as maintaining Ontario’s reputation in a good place to invest.
    I can’t see spending good money on solar panels and using them in an inferior way. This announcement makes as much sense as offering me a $1.00/KW if I mount them on the north side of my roof.

  27. smee, thank you for pointing out the obvious.

  28. Rick
    I must agree the misinformation of issues like this run rampant. Makes people just admire our government at all levels.

    How can we use roof mount solar panels on a older home not structurally designed to hold the increased load. I am not talking only about the panels alone but also the increased load from snow and freezing rain. How do you clean the snow and or ice off of a roof mount if you are a senior citizen?

    If we decide to go with panels mounted at grade we now loose green space.
    If we decide to run an array of panels for a distribution where should we put them and how much green space are you willing to provide. We would also still have the distribution issue if it is sold back to hydro.

    I agree we need a better method of creating energy, but I still fail to see the efficiency of a solar panel in a climate which has such limited solar time.
    Solar power is better suited for places such as the Middle East, India, Pakistan Asia, where sun is a major factor. You can also include southern and south central United States as well would be better to host solar power plants.

    Do you really think ROI is worth it? A clean planet yep, but it’s covered in glass

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