This plenary session was comprised of an introductory presentation and a panel discussion. The presentation provided an overview of the Ontario FIT program version 2.0, including the current status of the program, the benefits it offers to the province, as well as some of the challenges it faces. The following heated discussion invited several high level figures to participate. Among them were the current chair of the board of directors of CanSIA, as well as CEOs and technical VPs from several Ontario-based solar companies.

Regarding the future of solar PV generation opportunities in Canada, the introductory presentation pointed out that:

  1. For Canada, most provinces continue to take a cautious approach regarding PV. Part of the reason can be understood by the abundance of other natural electricity resources such as hydro.
  2. In future, some provinces may be able to justify uptake in solar PV generation if solar PV costs move closer to available resource options, and if PV can meet power system needs such as peak demand requirements, operational flexibility, load displacement, etc.

The panel discussion offered some heated debate over the current PV incentive programs, largely from the standpoint view of the policy makers. Here are some highlights from the panel discussion:

1. Currently in Ontario, the demand for PV systems is falling. The industry is facing over supply problems. And cost is going up. The uncertainty of future FIT programs is high. To counter these issues, panelists suggested:

–          Decrease price by improving equipment procurement process.

–          The industry has to try to gain more public support. The message delivered to the public should be more clear and persuasive, e.g. emphasizing solar PV’s role as the “peak shaver”, or benefits from reduction of the power transmission costs (due to the fact that PV power generation is highly distributed and usually geographically close to the end users).

–          Align solar with local needs.

2. There were also debates over the role of government. Someone from the industry described the current status of the PV industry in Ontario as “punching below the weight”.  The discussion then focused on what policy makers could have done better to increase the competitive advantage of solar PV in Ontario. Some comments or suggestions from the discussion:

–          Resources should be invested in the fields where 75% of the technology is happening, instead of investing too much into obsolete technologies such as nuclear power.

–          The incentive programs should be stable and transparent to attract investors. Not much time is left. We only have few opportunities ahead to get it right.

–          The PV industry should “punch together” as a whole, rather than everybody fighting on their own.

In the following Q&A session, the audience expressed disappointment over the various aspects of the Ontario FIT program, including the mismatch between the design of the program and project needs, as well as the CanSIA board election issues. In general, the solar sector in Ontario now seems to be at a crossroad, and this makes it logical to look backward to “fix” existing programs and incentives for PV generation.

Jingfeng's picture

Jingfeng Yang

Post-doctoral Fellow

Department of Engineering Physics, McMaster University