May 31, 2014

The FIT Program and the Growing Pains of the Green Energy Act

Every year, the Solar Canada conference brings together the key stakeholders in the solar photovoltaics (PV) industry in Canada.  Both the formal discussions during the plenary sessions and the informal offline discussions that that take place during the conference have a major impact on the direction of the solar industry in Canada.   As we approached the 5th anniversary of Ontario’s Green Energy Act, it appeared that many of the stakeholders were reflecting on the origins of the Green Energy Act, evaluating the impact of the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program, and projecting on what the future of the FIT program will look like. The FIT program was born out of 2009’s Green Energy Act with the purpose of creating a simple, streamlined method of increasing the grid-connected generation capacity of renewable energy sources (e.g. solar, wind, etc.) in Ontario.  In addition to displacing generation sources with high greenhouse gas emissions such as coal fired power plants, one of the goals of more
May 16, 2014

Export or Perish: Solar Canada 2013’s Implicit Slogan

Canada’s annual Solar Trade Show and Expo gave firms a clear message: the future of the solar industry is international.  When Ontario’s feed-in tariff for solar was introduced, many hoped for an explosion of “green jobs.” These appeared, though observers tempered their enthusiasm as most of the products were destined for the domestic market. A 2012 report by Navigant indicated that the Canadian solar industry still has a long way to go in becoming a viable export sector. If Solar Canada 2013 indicated anything, this drive is no longer just a political preference, but a business necessity. With solar deployment winding down in Ontario, there is both pessimism regarding international competition and acute awareness of the need to export. Nicholas Morgan, VP of business development at MorganSolar, spoke to me incredulously of solar companies who rely on Ontario’s policy-driven market. In the opening plenary, Canadian solar business leaders discussed some of Canada’s advantages. The idea of “Team Canada” was thrown around more
August 7, 2013

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel for PV in Ontario?

As Ontario’s flagship renewable energy (RE) incentive program, referred to as the Feed-in Tariff (FIT), enters its third review, it is an appropriate point to assess several recent political and policy changes which have implications for the next iteration of RE incentives. In my previous blog, I wrote about the challenges facing Photovoltaics (PV) with respect to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) initial ruling against Ontario’s domestic content requirements, growing economic turbulence in the RE sector, political adjustments within the provincial Liberal party  as well as other industrial and policy factors that have created uncertainty surrounding the future deployment and development of PV in Ontario. These events have had lasting impacts on the prospects of PV and continue to influence future policy engagement. In conjunction with prior developments, there are new pressures and policy changes which will have serious implications for PV. Do these changes point to positive change for the future of PV? Foremost among these pressures is the more
March 31, 2013

CanSIA 2012-Solar PV Technologies and Innovations: Building an Export Market

Chair Ian MacLellan, President and CEO, Ubiquity Solar Inc. Panelists Nic Morgan, Co-founder and VP Business Development, Morgan Solar Jan Dressel, President & Managing Director, SPARQ Systems Inc Ray Morgan, Director Outreach, PV/Solar & Semiconductor, SEMI Americas Rafael Kleiman, Professor, Director, McMaster University Clemens van Zeyl, CEO & Co-Founder, ARDA Power Inc.   An interesting panel discussion took place on innovation. The panel discussed the meaning of innovation from different points of view. Everyone agreed that Solar is happening faster than everyone expected. In 2001, it was predicted that the world market for new installations in 2010 would be 2.8GW. In 2006, the prediction was increased to 5.5GW. The actual result for new installations in 2010 was 16.8GW. According to PV experience curve, PV module price is estimated to be as low as $0.15/W by 2050. For more information, check out the white paper issued by CanSIA here. Innovation trends for PV: Silicon is and will continue to be the more
September 14, 2012

Lessons from Germany and Around the World

“Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it” – Winston Churchill This often quoted phrase reminds us that we should never take for granted the examples set by those before us. Whether it be foreign policy or invention, the lessons taught to us by history are equally important. Since 2009, with the passing of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA), Ontario has started down a road first tread by Germany. The GEA was modeled after the evolution of Germany’s 1990 Electricity Feed-In Law, which was initially designed to promote small-scale wind and hydro electricity projects and later modified in 2000 and 2004 for solar energy. Following the first modification in 2000, Germany saw a 20 times increase in solar installations within 5 years and another 8 times jump by 2010. During this time, many German solar businesses were founded and flourished under an environment of heavy government subsidies. So if everything worked out, then more
April 3, 2012

FIT 2.0: What do the changes mean?

In attempt to give some perspective to industry stakeholders, CanSIA held a webinar titled “microFIT and FIT 2.0: What it really means for Ontario’s Solar Industry”, featuring several expert panelists. Some of the key points from that webinar are discussed below. There is now a realization that not everybody who applies can receive a FIT contract. The system of “first come first serve” has changed to one where certain projects are given priority. This was most likely introduced for at least a few reasons.  Firstly, more stringent eligibility requirements will reduce the volume of FIT applications. Secondly, it ensures that priority access is given to those projects that are more likely to succeed, ie. those without community or municipal opposition. Lastly, this amendment will alleviate some of the negative criticism, particularly around community opposition to wind turbines that the FIT program has received. The suggested annual pricing schedule review is likely to be an improvement. It provides industry with definitive more
April 3, 2012

FIT 2.0 – What has changed?

The Ontario provincial government launched the ambitious Green Energy and Economy Act (GEA) in 2009 to encourage the adoption of renewable energy into the province’s electricity mix and to create a new sector of “green-collar” jobs. The largest component of the GEA is the Feed-In Tariff program (FIT). It allows any individual or community stakeholder to produce their own renewable energy and sell it to the local utility at a premium rate that is guaranteed for 20 years. In terms of uptake, the program has generally been viewed as a success, with 2,000 FIT contracts and 12,000 microFIT contracts having been offered, totalling 4,600 MW of renewable energy. Furthermore, the province claims 20,000 jobs have been created since the program’s inception. However, despite these successes, there currently seems to be a strong undertone of discontent in Ontario’s solar industry. It seems that the program has been on pause over the past several months, with new FIT contract offers being delayed. more
January 19, 2012

That’s the power of a vacuum

Humanity is consuming more and more energy every year and, since much of the world depends on fossil fuel based resources, our total carbon emissions continue to climb as well. In the effort to curb this trend, energy conservation is imperative. One area where conservation efforts can make a particularly large impact is in our nation’s buildings where 40% of our national energy expenditure is consumed. [1] This is a powerful motivation to construct buildings that are more energy efficient. Researchers from the National Research Council (NRC) are attempting to do just that with a promising new technology called the vacuum insulated panel (VIP). It is important to digress somewhat here.  What does it mean to make a building more energy efficient? Well, we have to actively heat and cool our buildings. In other words, we continually supply energy so as to maintain a constant temperature. If we need to supply it constantly then that means we must be losing more
December 9, 2011

Auditor General’s thoughts on clean energy subsidies

The recent release of the Ontario Auditor General’s critique of the province’s renewable energy policy has rekindled a debate that was brought to the forefront of public attention in the most recent provincial election. Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, used strong language to illustrate his interpretation of the report’s findings. He claims that the report was a “scathing indictment” of the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program and that the “… Auditor General rips [it] apart.” Furthermore, he accosts McGuinty for “…basically giving the finger to the auditor general ,” or put more gently, telling the Auditor general to “take a hike,” when he visited a Samsung-related plant a day after the report was released. (Quotes from Toronto Star article “McGuinty shrugs off auditor’s critique of green energy” available at–mcguinty-shrugs-off-auditor-s-critique-of-green-energy) The report is available online at and there is a seemingly endless chain of criticism within. While Hudak’s combative and polarizing tone is absent from it, in its place is more
November 22, 2011

The Ontario FIT is up for review

Ontario’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program has been the driving force behind the province’s expanding renewable energy industry for more than two years.  The program is now up for its scheduled two-year review date. This is an important aspect of the FIT because it allows the policy makers to make necessary adjustments to the program as they learn from the successes and failures of the past two-years. The biannual review also allows for tariff digression, one of the most important aspects of a successful FIT program. The idea motivating tariff digression is that the province is interested in making renewables a competitive economic investment; no more, no less. If it is not competitive then people won’t invest their money. If it is too lucrative then it wastes taxpayer money and it may also endanger the program. The province is attempting to make the review process as open and transparent as possible and as such, it is welcoming suggestions from the general public. To more