The Ontario Liberals sure know how to give with one hand and take away with the other.
Despite Premier McGuinty’s frequent speeches tying green energy to economics, and his pledge that the Green Energy Act and its feed-in-tariff (FIT) program would create thousands of new jobs, the government has taken action which threaten those very jobs.
The ongoing Ontario Power Authority (OPA) review of its Feed-in-Tariff program was poorly undertaken. The government failed to warn stakeholders in the emerging renewable energy industry that no new contracts would be awarded during the review. In fact, all contract submission since August 31st – two months before the review was announced – are now frozen. The industry is now effectively on hold for up to nine months.
The Green Party of Ontario joins with industry leaders who are sounding the alarm bell as they see jobs threatened and businesses compromised. Small businesses simply don’t have the cash flow or financial resources to survive without income. To succeed, local businesses need a consistent, transparent and predictable policy process.
Bradley Kerr of BMK Solar explains that the current situation threatens to “cause not only business to go out of business but also create an unstable environment for everyone including the people who finance these projects.” Ironically, it’s small home grown businesses that are likely to suffer most, says Kerr.
“With any industry stability for investors is key. The investors are looking for a stable set of rules that are carried forward in a clear and concise manner.” Kerr worries that investors will move to other places if this disrespect from the OPA continues.
Dave Estill of Estill Energy, Inc, shares these concerns. “I’ve already seen companies laying off or letting employees go. These are skilled workers that we put investment into.” Estill wholeheartedly supports a review that would result in necessary renewable price reductions, but laments the manner in which it’s taking place. “The way that they’re doing it is hurting business and hurting industry and so is counter-productive to the whole idea of what they’re trying to accomplish.”
Stakeholders, including the Solar Alliance of Ontario, agree the price of government purchased renewable energy needs to continue to drop. This is the only way to provide incentives that spur innovation and challenge the industry as it moves away from dependence on government subsidies. But the way this review was undertaken has threatened the industry. Building the industry requires genuine and ongoing consultation with stakeholders.
The Green Party supports a responsible FIT price review to lower prices and bring in new technologies and new sources of generation as green energy manufacturing expands across the province.
A simple solution to avoid the problems of the current review would be to allow existing contracts to go through at the new lower price. Continuing to pre-approve contracts during the review period will allow business to continue and help prevent a backlog of contracts that will only further delay progress in the industry after the completion of the review.
Greens would continue to treat with respect, accountability and transparency those companies that are risking their capital, their time and their energy to push the frontier of this new energy sector.