Why Not Ohio? Huge Response to Ontario's Feed-in Tariff Launch
Dennis Spisak -
Green Party candidate for Ohio Governor cites a report by Paul Gipe last week about Ontario's Feed-in tariff program becoming a huge success.
"This is the type of government involvement that is needed to make a successful committment to renewable energy programs and to get them off the ground."said Spisak. "This type of program in Ohio would help people save money and begive the drive toa cleaner and greener Ohio in terms of renewable energies" he concluded.
According to the report, Ontario's new feed-in tariff program got off to an attention-grabbing start December 16, 2009 when the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) announced that it had awarded 700 contracts for renewable energy to homeowners under its expedited microFIT program.
Altogether, OPA received 8,000 MW of applications for wind and solar energy contracts under the province's precedent-setting, feed-in tariff policy.
OPA's remarkable press release was well timed to send a signal, if any was intended, to the Canadian delegation in Copenhagen where Canada was singled out as "Fossil of the Year" by climate change activists for its refusal to limit greenhouse gases.
Ontario is acting independently of Canada's federal government and plans to close all its coal-fired power plants by 2014. The province, Canada's most populous, is also aggressively developing its renewable energy industry. OPA's announcement was the first concrete indication of how fast the Ontario market may grow.
OPA estimates that the feed-in tariff program will stimulate more than $5 billion (Canadian) in new manufacturing, design, construction, and engineering investment in the province.
But the news that generated the most media buzz in Canada and elsewhere was the microFIT contracts. Saying the program "literally brings power to the people," Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Gerry Phillips sounded like a 1960s radical. He went on to add that the MicroFIT program "allows homeowners, farmers, schools and mom and pop businesses" to generate their own power "and get paid for it".
Under Ontario's microFIT program, homeowners generating their own electricity from solar PV will be paid $0.80 CAD/kWh ($0.76 USD/kWh) for a period of 20 years.
Indeed, it does sound radical, a program enabling citizens to profit from the renewable energy that falls on their rooftops. And Phillips wasn't alone in embracing the province's accomplishment-or sounding revolutionary.
Colin Anderson, OPA's chief executive, proudly noted that "We've cut the red tape and made it simpler for ordinary Ontarians to become electricity producers."
For Anderson and the OPA this wasn't idle boasting. They delivered North America's most aggressive renewable energy program in record-breaking time.
OPA said it was continuing to process another 500 micoFIT applications. When awarded, OPA will have issued a total 8.6 MW of contracts--nearly all for rooftop solar PV--to generators with projects less than 10 kW. These residential solar systems will generate nearly nine million kilowatt-hours per year under Ontario conditions.
Ontario's microFIT contracts alone will put Ontario close to one of the top ten markets for solar PV in North America. Yet the microFIT contracts represent just the tip of the iceberg.
Of the 8,000 MW of applications for feed-in tariffs, nearly 1,300 MW were for solar PV, and 6,300 MW were for wind energy.
Unfortunately, there is only 2,500 MW of grid capacity available in the first phase of OPA's feed-in tariff program. Another 1,500 MW of grid expansion is currently under construction.
In the meantime, OPA is giving preference to projects that are "shovel-ready" to get as much renewable energy in the ground as quickly as possible.
Within three to five years there could be as much as 4,000 MW of new renewable capacity in Ontario. Under Ontario conditions this would be roughly 3% to 5% of the province's electricity consumption. If achieved, this would be the most rapid growth of renewable energy in North America outside Texas.
For comparison, California--the one-time renewable energy leader in North America--currently generates only slightly more than 2% of its electricity consumption from new renewables.
Ontario has clearly put itself on the renewable energy map. This time next year we can judge the province by what really counts: not by the contracts awarded, but by the hardware installed.