MicroFIT: A Letter to Minister Duguid

Letter to Minister Duguid regarding the new deed-in tariff proposed for MicroFIT ground-mounted solar PV projectsFriday, 16 July, 2010

Hon. Brad Duguid, MPP
Minister
Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure
900 Bay Street, 4th Floor
Hearst Block
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 2E1

Dear Minister Duguid,

Subject: New Feed-In Tariff Proposed for MicroFIT Ground-Mounted Solar PV Projects

As leader of the Green Party of Ontario, I am writing to express our Party’s strong opposition to the proposed new feed in tariff for ground-mounted solar systems under the MicroFIT program.

Solar energy is an early-stage industry which is vital to Ontario’s future, both as a source of renewable energy and a source of green jobs. We therefore supported the original MicroFIT program which provided needed provincial support for this emerging industry, while enabling homeowners and especially farmers to invest and share in the proceeds of this sustainable energy source.

Over 15,000 homeowners, farmers and other Ontarians took the government’s commitment at face value and applied for MicroFIT contracts, with many investing tens of thousands of dollars with the expectation the government would be a partner with them. Likewise, solar equipment dealers and installers have invested millions of dollars in inventory and training to support the program.

Unfortunately, the way in which your government and the Ontario Power Authority have implemented this program will hurt the individual homeowners, farmers and businesses who have invested. Further, your actions threaten to set back community-based solar energy in Ontario by years.

The Ontario Power Authority committed to process MicroFIT contract applications in under 30 days, where in reality the process has taken 4 months or more and has created a backlog of over 10,000 outstanding projects. The individuals who invested were not at fault for this backlog.

On the Friday of the July long weekend, the Ontario Power Authority suddenly announced a 27% reduction in the price paid for ground-mounted solar projects, including for those individuals who had already applied but not yet been approved. This sudden price reduction affects the majority of outstanding projects and has caused the solar installation business in Ontario to contract overnight, with some suppliers reporting declines in business of up to 80%.

Your government has justified the rate reduction on the basis that ground mounted systems cost less to install and therefore earn an “exorbitant” rate of return. This is widely disputed by many installers and project owners and there was no meaningful industry input before this new policy was announced.

At the same time as the government is reneging on its commitment to community-based solar power producers covered under the MicroFIT program, you are apparently applying a different standard for its dealings with the corporate sector and standing by your secretly negotiated deals worth billions.

We 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 the government should honour its word and stand behind its promised pricing for all current applications.

Any future changes to pricing should be based on meaningful input from industry representatives, project owners and the public.

Finally, I believe fundamentally that government programs in support of renewable energy must be conducted in a way which is honest, open and where communities and community members are treated with the same respect which the government has shown selectively to corporations.

Sincerely,

Mike Schreiner
Leader, Green Party of Ontario