Utility bills in the province of Ontario have been steadily creeping upwards, placing a strain on households and increasing the production costs of industry. It’s bad for local residents and very bad for business. Worse still, many are predicting that bills could double in the next 15 to 20 years. Exactly who or what is to blame for this hydro mayhem remains a topic of hot debate. Several critics have leveled an accusing finger at the McGuinty government’s Feed-in-tariff programs, but are they really to blame?
The current state of affairs
As we move away from coal (the last plant will be closing in 2014), the province is relying heavily on nuclear power and, once extensive refurbishments have been completed, 80% of the province’s power will be provided by nuclear plants by 2030. Renewable energy constitutes a very small percentage of the energy pie (shared between wind, bio-energy and solar).
Currently underway is the refurbishment of two reactors at the Bruce A nuclear power plant. In addition, two new reactors are in the planning stages. The total investment into nuclear will be more than $33 billion which is said to fulfill the province’s energy needs until 2035. The project is already 2 years behind schedule. A 15% increase in consumption by 2030, as well as an aging nuclear fleet, has required the government to spend an enormous amount of money on refurbishments. It’s the cost of these refurbishments that must be borne by the long-suffering consumer.
Natural gas and nuclear facilities get large subsidies when market price falls below guaranteed price. This happens “almost all the time” according to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario who goes on to say; “The latter subsidies involve 70% of the global adjustment monies paid out, simply because they pay for the delivery of much more power. In fact, the Ontario Power Authority paid out $1.35 billion in 2010 to meet gas and nuclear power purchase agreements.”
The cost of renewable energy
The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario released figures for what renewable energy costs the average household. “In 2010, the Ontario Power Authority paid electricity resource costs of $317 million for conservation programs, and $269 million for renewables. That is a lot of money – but you must realize that it is recovered over a total Ontario consumption in 2010 of 142 terawatt hours (that’s 142,000,000,000 kWh), which amounts to 0.4 cents per kWh (split roughly equally between conservation and renewable subsidies). So the cost of conservation and all the renewable subsidies in 2010 amounted to 0.4 cents of the 13 cents we paid for a kWh in our homes.”
In addition to the environmental benefits of renewable energy, the growth that these industries have created in Ontario has been invaluable. Private Sector Investment in Ontario will total over $21 Billion by 2018. There are over 60 manufacturers and over 1000 aboriginal community-based FIT projects are bringing much-needed revenues to Ontario communities. A recent study showed that the solar industry had been responsible for over $2 billion in investments in 2011 alone, creating an estimated 8,200 jobs. A number which will increase to 11,400 in 2012 with 25 jobs created for every megawatt of energy installed by 2018.
As the cost of resources increases, nuclear energy becomes more and more expensive as does natural gas. A recent review of the Feed-in-tariff program saw a 30% reduction of rates paid by the government. Most of this reduction was absorbed by the drop in prices for solar panels and other components. As renewable energy technology improves, solar power collection becomes increasingly efficient and cheaper. To blame our high hydro prices on renewable energy and specifically the feed-in-tariff programs is a fatuous representation of the true costs of electricity.
Selling Solar Power Into The Ontario Grid—A Case Study
Ontario MicroFIT installs can be a dream come true or a nightmare on wheels. Picking the right contractor is the most essential ingredient in the recipe for installing solar panels properly. Navigating the application and approval process alone can be time consuming and frustrating. Find a contractor that will help you to submit your application to the OPA, collect all the relevant paperwork and obtain conditional approval. SolarLine Power will be with you every step of the way. From the initial application process to final inspection, they will bring their extensive experience in the microFIT solar panel installation game to bare.
Once a conditional approval has been obtained from the OPA, you need to design your ideal solar panel installation. Many homeowners are horrified to find that their solar panels are not correctly oriented, are shaded by other panels or surrounding buildings and trees, or make their roof look unattractive. SolarLine Power knows how to install solar panels properly. They will monitor your home’s exposure to the sun to find the solar panel orientation that produces the optimum number of sun hours a day. SolarLine Power custom designs systems to match individual roofs, ensures that the panels have a Canadian Safety Standards approval and are manufactured from 60% local content. Many homeowners purchase cheaper panels, only to discover that the panels do not meet the 60% domestic content requirement and will have to be replaced in order to pass the final inspection. Said Christine of 350 or Bust; “Hire professional installers, unless you have a LOT more time than money. If you are planning to be part of the Ontario microFIT program, make sure that you meet the domestic content requirements as outlined on the OPA microFIT website. In 2011, the program requires that 60% of your materials and installation be considered Ontario-based.”
When Kirk Fergusson decided to avail himself of the financial benefits and clean energy that microFIT offers, he trusted SolarLine Power to install his solar panels properly. The team at SolarLine Power handled his application and helped him to obtain conditional approval and approval for his building plans. Kirk’s house has a signature dark green roof. Its corner-lot orientation makes the roof very visible and, in order to maintain its aesthetic appeal, SolarLine Power opted for a modern black panel that blended with the dark green shingles.
The steep roof angle and window peak offered further challenges, but the SolarLine Power team shifted some vents and designed a system that maximized roof exposure while maintaining the home’s gorgeous exterior. They even aligned the edges of the panels with the edges of the roof.
The completed system consists of a Solar Edge 5kWh single phase centralized inverter, Solar Edge power box optimizers, Heliene 245 Watt solar modules (these are the black panels) and a Schuco Solar EZ roof mounting system. This left Kirk with 24 panels which cover 450 ft² and weigh about 1, 150 lbs. The daily output of about 19 kWh (this is averaged over the year) adds up to 6, 784 kWh annually.
Now Kirk Fergusson can look forward to putting fistfuls of SunMoney into his pocket every month. He can expect a monthly saving of $453 on utilities which adds up to $5, 441 annually. Over a 5-year period, the SolarLine Power system will save a massive $27,205. As solar panels have a 20-life expectancy, Kirk can expect to save $114, 256 over the next 20 years.
SolarLine Power has a qualified electrician on staff to provide the final inspection once the system is installed. This can be an unexpected expense if your solar panel installer does not have an in-house electrician. SolarLine Power will also guide you through the final inspections and grid hook-up process.
The microFIT program and a properly installed solar panel system can provide welcome relief from rising utilities bills, earn the property owner SunMoney each month and provide the occupants with clean, renewable energy they can be proud of.
“The guys from Solarline were great. They helped us navigate the microFIT and building application and approval process, designed a good-looking and efficient solar panel system and took extra care to ensure the system was installed properly.”
– Kirk Fergusson
Pope John Paul II Senior Elementary School (John Paul Elementary) in Thunderbay has installed a new 50kW solar power system under the Ontario FIT program. The project will not only provide green energy for the province, but also a tidy income to the Catholic District School Board, which expects to offset their utility bills by $70,000 a year. Not to mention the benefits to the students who can learn first hand the realities of the new solar economy in Ontario and prepare themselves for a rewarding career in renewable energy.