Canada: OPA sets FIT for new ground-mounted solar category

Additionally, it has said it will establish a program advisory panel, but commercial aggregators will no longer be allowed to participate in the program.

The finalized price reflects input received during the consultation period, says the OPA, and incorporates a wider variation of cost inputs and project configurations, including higher operating and maintenance costs for ground-mounted tracking systems. It goes on to say that the price “strikes the right balance” between providing a reasonable rate of return to electricity generators and protecting ratepayers from higher than necessary electricity prices.

The new price category is effective immediately for eligible projects with applications submitted after noon on July 2, 2010, when a new price category was proposed, explains the OPA. Eligible ground-mounted applications submitted prior to noon on July 2, 2010, will receive the original price of 80.2 cents/kWh whether or not they have received a contract or conditional offer. These applicants will also have until next May 31 to install and request a connection for their projects before higher domestic content requirements are required. Ground-mounted solar microFIT contracts signed and conditional offers received before July 2 will continue to be eligible for the original price of 80.2 cents/kWh.?

“The outcome of a constructive consultation process is that these changes provide fairness for those who have applied to the existing program and good value for clean energy,” said Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Brad Duguid. “The microFIT program will continue to be a sustainable program that encourages residents to participate in the growing clean energy economy.” Colin Andersen, chief executive officer of the OPA added: “The microFIT program has been tremendously successful since it was launched in October 2009. With these changes, it has been made even stronger going forward.” ??

During the 30-day consultation period, the OPA held three web-enabled teleconferences with 1,665 participants and received 1,645 written submissions about the proposed price. Based on this input, the OPA says that it is also making the following announcements:

  • To improve communication and increase transparency, the OPA is establishing a microFIT program advisory panel that will provide advice on program evolution, including the two-year review process. The panel will be made up of industry, academic and other stakeholder representatives.
  • Commercial aggregators (e.g., businesses that lease land or rooftops from individuals for multiple renewable energy projects) will no longer be allowed to participate in the microFIT program. This will ensure that the microFIT program is focused on its original purpose – encouraging homeowners, farmers, farm co-operatives, First Nations, small businesses and institutions such as schools, to own and develop small renewable projects.
  • The panel will make recommendations, on an expedited basis, about appropriate contracting provisions for aggregators to reflect the unique nature of commercial micro projects. This will help ensure that commercial aggregators can continue to participate in the clean energy economy but do so outside of the microFIT program structure.

The Canadian Solar Industries Association has praised the OPA for its decision. In a letter, it said: "The creation of an OPA microFIT program advisory panel to provide advice on program evolution, including the two-year review process, and the inclusion of Elizabeth McDonald, CanSIA’s president as a member is a clear sign of the government’s respect for CanSIA and underlines its efforts to get this right.

"The OPA is to be congratulated for its efforts and for listening to the diverse voices that make up the renewable energy industry. Clearly, the government’s acceptance of our suggestions shows that our rational and reasoned approach was the right way to go and I want to thank you again for your continued patronage and support in CanSIA.