According to the OPA, the rule changes have been designed to identify potential connection issues early on in the application and contracting processes, and will reportedly better align projects with available connection capacity.
The microFIT change affects applications (10 kilowatts (kW) or less in size) submitted on or after December 8, 2010. Applicants will now need to obtain an offer to connect from their local distribution company, before the OPA issues a microFIT conditional offer of contract. In terms of CAE FIT contracts (generally 500 kW or less in size), a new eligibility criterion has been added, which requires CAE facilities to be deemed by the OPA as capable of connecting at the proposed connection point. The rule again applies to applications submitted on or after December 8, 2010.
Prior to the rule change, smaller household projects had a streamlined process, as they were not subject to grid capacity tests before electricity contracts were awarded. Ontario has long been seen as a leader in the integration of PV technology into mainstream usage, and this latest decision comes as teething problems with the original approvals process are fixed.
Since beginning of the Renewable Energy Approval program (RPA) in September 2009, the OPA has offered more than 1,500 FIT contracts representing almost 2,700 megawatts to produce and deliver power to Ontarios electricity grid.
The OPA has also said it may extend the milestone date for commercial operation (MCOD) by up to one year, taking the process from the previous six months to a possible 18. This would mean some larger-scale projects would be given more time for such things as gaining environmental approval, project construction and achieving commercial operation.
The proposal comes after many renewable energy project developers reportedly approached the OPA, criticizing the brevity of the original six-month MCOD, and stating that it did not give them sufficient time to properly develop projects.
During February and March, the OPA has said it will contact FIT suppliers by email with an offer to execute an amending agreement, which would extend the MCOD by up to one year in exchange for trade-offs by the supplier on certain Force Majeure rights. The email will also include further instructions on how to finalize the agreement and take advantage of the extension offer.
The changes have again highlighted the learning curve developers and governments are on when it comes to proper utilization of PV technology and its practical application in the marketplace, particularly with regards to grid connection.