Ontario: Bureaucracy required

20. April 2012 | Global PV markets, Markets & Trends | By:  Hans-Christoph Neidlein

Ambitious expansion plans are afoot for renewable energy and photovoltaics in the Canadian province of Ontario, Oleg Popovsky, business development manager of SunEdison tells pv magazine. He also calls for a reduction of red tape with regards to feed-in tariff (FIT) implementation.

Ontario flag

The expansion targets for renewable energy in Ontario are not thought to be ambitious enough.

With an annual production capacity of 120 megawatts (MW), MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc., parent company of project developer SunEdison, is one of the largest photovoltaic module manufacturers in Ontario. Flextronics makes the modules in the greater Toronto area.

Popovsky reports that by 2014, the lines, where the "Made in Ontario" modules are manufactured according to the specifications of the province’s feed-in tariff program, are already nearly fully booked. While 90 MW have been reserved for SunEdison to use in projects in Ontario, 130 MW will be supplied to Northland Power.

Not enough ambition

However, Popovsky is worried about the medium-term business development for photovoltaics. "The expansion targets for renewable energy in Ontario are not ambitious enough," he tells pv magazine. Currently, there is a "development corridor" of 10.7 GW by 2015 for all renewable energy in the province. Of this, 9.5 GW have already been awarded. The remaining 800 MW, meanwhile, is now competing between wind, biomass and photovoltaic projects. And the cost for this is increasing.

Furthermore, under the new FIT, announced two weeks ago, additional project requirements were unveiled, which aim to enforce stronger community involvement, municipal approval and aboriginal participation. "Greater involvement of local people is valuable and can strengthen the acceptance for photovoltaics," continues Popovsky. But, there are concerns that approval times for projects will be lengthened due to the new regulations.

Back in November, the Canadian Solar Industry Association (CanSIA) pointed out to pv magazine that, on average, it takes two years to approve large-scale solar farms. This also leads to delays in funding. So, by the end of last year, almost all projects were funded by the (high) remuneration rates under the 2006 Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program (RESOP).

Since the start of this year, funds from the 2009 FIT program will be allocated, and tariffs worth between 44.3 and 82.7 Canadian cents per kilowatt hour will be awarded. Meanwhile, the revised FIT program, envisages cuts of around 20 percent. When the new rules take effect in reality, however, is still unclear, says Popovsky.

Now, clear guidance from Toronto on how to implement the new regulations to the FIT program, is required, as is an increase in the development corridor for renewable energy in Ontario.

Translated by Becky Stuart.

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