Government Must Honour Solar Energy Commitments

The Liberal government’s mismanagement of the solar microFIT program is causing participants and citizens to lose confidence in the province’s ability to seize opportunities in the emerging green economy.By changing the rules on the fly, the McGuinty government has injected uncertainty into the green energy market.

I’ve spoken with entrepreneurs, business owners, farmers, and others in the green energy sector from across the province blind-sided by the government’s proposed price reduction for ground-mounted solar systems. Many have spent tens of thousands of dollars in the expectation that the government would follow through on its commitment to pay 80.2 ¢/kWh for solar projects under 10 kilowatts. Likewise solar energy dealers and installers have invested heavily in inventory and training to support orders that are now being cancelled.

In the short run, people’s livelihood and savings may be lost. In the medium and long run, the uncertainty that the Liberals have created will hamper the development of this emerging industry.

If implemented properly, the microFIT program has the potential to foster a wave of sustainable economic development in communities across the province by empowering Ontarians to become green energy entrepreneurs. Ontarians have responded positively to the program with 16,000 applications.

Over the July long weekend, however, the government abruptly changed the prices which will be paid to citizens who are proposing to mount their solar panels on the ground, slashing the price paid for energy from ground mount solar panels by 27%. A public comment period on the proposed changes will take place until August 3.

To date, the OPA has approved only 3,000 applications. The rest of the applicants, many of whom have invested tens of thousands of dollars, will be forced to accept the new reduced price.

Greens understand that the prices offered for energy will have to be reviewed from time to time as economic and industry conditions change. In this case, the OPA had previously announced that the next price review would be in September 2011. Farmers and others investing in solar projects had no warning of this sudden reversal.

If the government finds it necessary to review pricing now, then at minimum they should honour their word and stand behind their promised pricing for all current applications. It’s time for Green MPPs at Queen’s Park to help restore confidence and trust in government by challenging the Liberals to fulfill their promises.