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FIT process needs streamlining say developers

The Green Energy Act and its feed-in tariffs have certainly put Ontario on the world map. That is something agreed by everyone on the panel considering the FIT review from the perspective of commercial developers. This includes farmers such as Don McCabe of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, a member of the Green Energy Act Alliance, which campaigned for the legislation. The way he colourfully put it, "We shot for the moon, punched through the Swiss cheese, and headed on to Mars." In other words, the success of the legislation has been overwhelming, so much so that it is presenting its own set of problems and challenges.

"The feed-in tariff program really changed the game," said Marc-Antoine Renaud of Enercon Canada. "The attraction was amazing. It really put Ontario on the map. "Dan Hoile of AS Solar said his company had intended to set up shop in the States, but because of the feed-in tariff program chose Ontario instead.

But that success has its caveats. If measured in applications for feed-in tariff contracts, well, then Pablo Maccario, of Silfab applauds the program. But when it comes to the much lower actual number of installations of solar systems, well then, "the overall market is still at the starting point," he said. The current production of 73 MW of solar is nothing to be sniffed at but it's disappointing when you consider there is capacity for 800 MW of solar. Process is the real problem when it takes 18 months to get approval, said Maccario. How come you aren't able to connect a 5kw system on a roof but you can connect a dryer, he asked. He suspects there is "a political will to limit the number of connections."

Hoile agreed citing long delays for installing even small solar system that shouldn't require lengthy environmental and hook-up assessments. His company has to make sure its clients, who have laid out a lot of money for a solar system aren't risking losses because of lengthy delays in getting approval.  He wants to see the process streamlined, especially for small projects. 

When asked how the FIT program could be improved, Renault stressed the need for more community ownership, pointing to Germany where 50 of renewable energy systems are owned by individuals and farmers. "One windmill owned by the community is a licence for a larger wind farm next door," he said. He felt the time is now during the FIT review for the government to address this issue.

On the other hand, Albert Engle of Fogler, Rubinoff LLP, pointed to the case of Suncor, which faced an environmental review tribunal. He criticised the provision that allows anyone to oppose a wind farm anywhere in the province.

McCabe suggested that the renewable energy facilitation office, "become an office," he said.

Most of the developers supported the government's local content quotas and the push for local green jobs. However, as one panellist said, his company will not be exporting solar panels because the domestic content makes them too expensive. Concerns were raised about cheap imports from China that could threaten Ontario's fledgling industry. Maccario said that while in the future China may very well dominate the solar panel market, he believes they could well be using Canadian manufacturing equipment. He pointed out that China currently uses German machines. He considers it very "savvy" of the government to attract manufactures and promise people jobs. But ultimately, he said, the Green Energy Act is all about the environment "unless someone doesn't believe in global warming."


Summary of How will the FIT Review shape Green Energy Ontario 2.0: A commercial and industrial perspective session.

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