Expect delays – Ontario’s “Buy Local” Renewable Energy Program

Date: 27 May 2013 | posted in: Energy, Media Coverage | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail
Globe Net, May 27, 2013
The U.S.-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance has published an informative review of Ontario’s buy local” Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program.
Launched in 2009, the Ontario program “promised to deliver hundreds of megawatts of new renewable energy and create 50,000 new jobs by the end of 2012. The Institute states the program has had some notable achievements, and the province has worked hard to remedy some of the remaining roadblocks to success.
The bottom line, concludes John Farrell, director of the Institute’s Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities Program and author of the review, is that the FIT program and its predecessors have jumpstarted renewable energy development in Ontario.
He notes the province would rank #4 and #11 for solar and wind deployment, respectively, if it were a U.S. state. It has created 31,000 jobs. It has also enabled widespread participation in renewable energy generation: 1 in 7 Ontario farmers is participating, earning a return on their investment.  Finally, it has enabled the province to shut down all of its coal-fired power plants by the end of 2014.
Other key points in the Institute’s review of the Ontario FIT program are as follows:
Huge Interest
Success with Small
A Mixed Review on Jobs
The Energy Ministry says that 31,000 direct and indirect jobs have been created thus far by the Green Energy Act, far more than would be expected with less than 10 percent of the renewable energy deployed and despite the world economic slowdown.
Manufacturing has come to the province to serve the “buy local” provision. About half of surveyed manufacturers intending to locate in Ontario have established a presence locally.
Doubling Down on Local
Ontario energy officials haven’t abandoned the ‘buy local’ policy, but rather have reinforced it with new program rules that prioritize local ownership of FIT projects. The success of the MicroFIT program and community-based projects led to a points scoring system for new FIT projects that rewards greater local support and local ownership. A quarter of the program capacity opened in early 2013 was set aside for locally owned projects. The new rules will hopefully lead to more smaller-scale projects with support from the local community.
Conclusion: Improvements Needed
While renewable energy development has been a modest success and job creation more so, the FIT program needs to improve, concludes the Institute.
The Ontario Power Authority needs to streamline the development process for projects with existing contracts and push utilities to use evidence-based procedures for determining grid capacity. It should consider whether utility-scale, multi-megawatt projects make sense, given the difficulty in getting such projects to market.
It should consider requiring local ownership for the remaining program capacity, knowing that it will minimize public opposition and maximize the economic returns. With these changes, the FIT program may still live up to much of its early promise.
Further Information: An interesting SlideShare Presentation of the Institute’s review is available here.
Read the full story here.