Tuesday, August 17, 2010

OPA microFIT Rate Changes


Ontario -- The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) revised the microFIT tariff in the province's groundbreaking feed-in tariff program on August 13, 2010, splitting the tariff into two tranches.
The microFIT tariff had applied for all solar photovoltaic (PV) projects less than 10 kW and paid $0.802 CAD/kWh for 20 years. OPA had originally proposed the tariff only for rooftop solar PV systems. However, the OPA expanded the definition to include groundmounted systems after stakeholder input in the spring of 2009. 
On July 2, 2010, OPA proposed breaking up the microFIT into two tranches, one for rooftop systems, and another for groundmounted systems. OPA had proposed cutting the groundmounted tariff to $0.588 CAD/kWh and making the cuts retroactive to thousands of applications that had not received contracts. 
After a furious reaction to the OPA proposal by farmers, installers, the solar industry and environmental groups, OPA issued a more modest revision of the microFIT tariff. 
OPA ruled that the new groundmounted microFIT would pay $0.642 CAD/kWh and would not be retroactive. All applications prior to the July 2nd announcement would receive the original tariff. Applications received after July 2nd would receive the new tariff. 
The MicroFIT revision brings to six the number of tranches for solar PV alone in Ontario's feed-in tariff program.
  • Rooftop <10 kW
  • Groundmounted <10 kW (2 July 2010)
  • Rooftop >10 kW<250 kW
  • Rooftop >250 kW<500 kW
  • Rooftop >500 kW
  • Groundmounted <10 MW

The Canadian Solar Industry Association (CanSIA) was relieved, saying they were "thrilled" by OPA's announcement. CanSIA lauded the willingness of OPA and the government to work collaboratively with the industry and other stakeholders to resolve the issue calmly.
OPA's announcement followed a 30-day consultation on its proposal. During this period, OPA revised its estimate of installation and operating costs for groundmounted tracking systems based on public input. The higher tariff was the result. 
There are no subsidies, tax credits, or other incentives in Ontario or in Canada for solar PV. 
OPA also responded to criticism that it had acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner by creating a microFIT program advisory panel to improve communications and increase transparency. 
In another provision, OPA ruled that commercial aggregators will no longer be allowed to participate in the microFIT program. OPA said that they intended to reserve micoFIT for its original purpose, helping homeowners, farmers, cooperatives, First Nations, small businesses, and public institutions to develop small renewable projects. 
Details of OPA's position, its economic assumptions, and calculations are posted to the OPA's micFIT web site at New Price Category Proposed for microFIT Ground-Mounted Solar PV Projects
OPA had received 16,000 applications for micoFIT or the equivalent of 160 MW if all applicants used all 10 kW permitted. 
CanSIA Expects Record Year
CanSIA is now expecting new solar PV installations in Ontario to reach between 100 to 200 MW this year. Nearly 100 MW has already been installed in 2010 and more projects are underway. 
Such a pace would put Ontario second behind California in North American solar PV installations for 2010, surpassing New Jersey and Colorado by wide margins. It is possible that by year end 2010 Ontario will have more total installed solar PV capacity than any other jurisdiction in North America except California. 
California has about four times the population of Ontario and has been developing solar PV for more than a decade. Ontario is a relative newcomer to solar PV. Having begun its Standard Offer Contract program in 2006, Ontario had a total solar PV capacity of less than 2 MW by the end of 2008.

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