510 renewable projects get go-ahead in Ontario (Canada)

The future will be brighter for many businesses in Ontario as more than 500 new green energy projects, most of them solar power installations, were approved today.

These 510 projects are the first larger power generators to obtain contracts through Ontario’s landmark Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program, the most comprehensive of its kind in North America. FIT encourages the development of renewable energy projects from a diverse range of producers, including homeowners, schools, farmers, large retailers and small businesses, by offering long-term, stable prices for the electricity generated.

“Everybody is participating, from everywhere in Ontario, from farmers, schools and hospitals to large scale retail and commercial operations,” said Brad Duguid, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure. “These projects will create a new source of income while providing new clean and green electricity in Ontario – particularly on hot, sunny summer days when demand soars. With our new domestic content rules, these projects will also help create new ‘green collar’ jobs here in Ontario, as well as major economic investments in equipment and services here at home.”

The 510 projects are to be built in 120 communities across Ontario by farmers, municipalities, local distribution companies, commercial businesses, industrial customers, public institutions, such as schools and hospitals, a winery and even a church. The projects range from 10 kilowatts to 500 kilowatts and have a total generating capacity of 112 megawatts – enough energy to power more than 13,000 homes. About 95 percent of the projects are for solar generation. The remaining projects are biogas (20), water (4), onshore wind energy (3) and biomass (1). A detailed list of the projects is available on the Ontario Power Authority’s website at

Loblaw Companies Limited, Canada’s largest grocery retailer, has been approved for FIT applications for rooftop solar installations on 136 of its Ontario stores. The grocery retailer will initially launch four pilot projects in select stores across the province and then evaluate the next phase of rollouts.

“This initiative is part of Loblaw’s overall effort to support renewable energy sources and green operation and embraces ways to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Bob Chant, vice president, corporate affairs, Loblaw Companies Limited. “We are committed to driving green energy production using new and innovative technologies, such as this pilot project with photovoltaic panels.”

The Feed-in Tariff program’s domestic content requirements ensure that a key portion of the technology used for renewable energy generation comes from Ontario. Developers must meet a certain percentage of made-in-Ontario goods and labour at the time the project reaches commercial operation. For solar photovoltaic projects larger than 10 kilowatts, the requirement is 50 per cent today, which will increase to 60 per cent on Jan. 1, 2011.

“The Ontario Power Authority is very excited about today’s announcement. Over the last year, we consulted, developed and launched the program. These first contracts really bring the program to life and highlight its success,” said Colin Andersen, CEO of the Ontario Power Authority.

The Ontario Power Authority began accepting FIT applications on Oct. 1, 2009 and received 956 eligible applications for the first round of FIT contracts, including the 510 projects announced today. Due to their size (up to 500 kilowatts), these projects can be connected to Ontario’s electricity grid without detailed impact assessments necessary for larger projects.

The FIT program, one of the cornerstones of Ontario’s Green Energy Act, provides stable, guaranteed pricing to renewable energy producers. It supports the province’s commitment to eliminate dirty coal-fired generation by the end of 2014 — the single largest climate change initiative in Canada. FIT and other initiatives under the Green Energy Act will support the creation of 50,000 “green collar” jobs.

The OPA is responsible for ensuring a reliable, sustainable supply of electricity for Ontario. Its four key areas of focus are: planning the power system for the long term, leading and co-ordinating conservation initiatives across the province, ensuring development of needed generation resources, and supporting the continued evolution of the electricity sector.

Ontario’s Feed-In Tariff Program Backgrounder

Ontario’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program for renewable energy generation is a cornerstone of the province’s Green Energy Act. The provincial government launched the program in September 2009, and the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) started accepting applications October 1, 2009. It is North America’s first comprehensive feed-in tariff program for renewable energy.

The program includes a stream called microFIT which is designed to encourage homeowners, businesses and others to generate renewable energy with projects of 10 kilowatts (kW) or less. MicroFIT is designed to make it simpler and faster to get small-scale renewable projects installed and producing power. The FIT program is designed for larger projects greater than 10 kW.

Prices paid for renewable energy generation under FIT and microFIT vary by energy source and take into account the capital investment required to get a project up and running.

*Under the program, participants are paid a fixed-price for the electricity they generate. FIT and microFIT contracts are for 20 years, with the exception of waterpower, which has a 40-year contract.

*Domestic content requirements for both FIT and microFIT projects are intended to help support the creation of 50,000 new green jobs in Ontario. MicroFIT projects will help create new local businesses and green jobs as demand grows for technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, biomass and waterpower generation equipment, and for Ontarians who can design, build, install, operate and maintain these technologies.

*Currently, about 1,300 MW of renewable electricity are in operation in Ontario, excluding large-scale hydro, enough to power more than 300,000 homes – or a city the size of Windsor.

*Ontario is Canada’s leader in wind power and solar photovoltaic capacity. The province is home to both Canada’s largest wind farms and solar farms. Ontario is already among the top 10 solar jurisdictions in Canada and the United States, ranked even higher than sunny places like Florida and Texas.

microFIT Applications

*The first 700 microFIT conditional offers were issued on Dec. 16, 2009.

*As of March 8, 2010, over 180 projects were connected to the grid and will be receiving payments for the electricity generated.

*The OPA has received microFIT applications from across the province, from Windsor to Thunder Bay. There are some areas that have had a significant number of applications submitted, including Chatham-Kent, Toronto and Ottawa.

*As of March 8, 2010, the Ontario Power Authority has received over 6000 microFIT applications. Ontario Power Authority is continuing to review and verify these applications.

*As of March 8, 2010, the Ontario Power Authority sent almost 2000 conditional offers to microFIT applicants subject to applicants obtaining approval to connect to the electricity grid from their local distribution company (LDC).

*Once the connection offer is obtained from the local distribution company and a contract is signed, the length of time it will take for microFIT applicants to start generating electricity will vary depending on the readiness of individual projects.

*MicroFIT is an ongoing program with applications being accepted on a continual basis. Once the current applications have been processed, the Ontario Power Authority anticipates a 30-day turnaround for microFIT applications.

*Detailed information about the microFIT application process and program rules are available on the OPA website.

FIT Capacity Allocation Exempt projects

*The first of the 510 FIT Capacity Allocation Exempt contracts were awarded on March 10, 2010.

*Capacity Allocation Exempt means that they can be developed without significant impact on the transmission or distribution systems, and through an expedited connection process.

*As of Dec. 1, 2009 the Ontario Power Authority received 956 acceptable FIT applications. 510 of these projects were between 10 and 500 kilowatts and are Capacity Allocation Exempt.

FIT Applications – Next Steps

*The OPA has estimated that there is approximately 2,500 megawatts of available transmission connection capacity for renewable energy projects over 500 kilowatts. The Ontario Power Authority is continuing to review and verify these applications and will give priority to “shovel-ready” projects.

*The first round of FIT applications are prioritized based on specific criteria to determine the most viable and “shovel-ready” projects that can be in operation soonest. FIT applications require a much more extensive review by the Ontario Power Authority, local distribution companies, transmitters and the Independent Electricity System Operator. Given the tremendous number of applications, the Ontario Power Authority has redeployed resources to complete the review.

*In March, the OPA started offering FIT contracts beginning with Capacity Allocation Exempt projects (10 to 500 kW), and it will continue in April with the rest of the FIT projects.

Transmission Expansion

*1,500 MW of additional transmission capacity will be delivered through the Bruce to Milton transmission project that Hydro One currently has underway.

*Economically viable projects that do not receive contracts will be considered once more transmission connection capacity is available or approved. The OPA will determine viability through an Economic Connection Test. It will carry out this test every six months on a rotating basis throughout the province. The schedule for the test will be developed as part of the review process.

*Ontario is undertaking an ambitious program of expansion and renewal of the province’s transmission facilities. Twenty transmission projects as well as investments into the distribution network were announced last September to ensure there is enough capability for renewable generation resulting from the FIT and the Green Energy Act. The projects represent a potential investment of about $2.3 billion over the next three years, and are expected to result in about 20,000 jobs. They include core lines, which form the backbone of the transmission system, and enabler lines. Hydro One Networks is leading these transmission expansion initiatives.

*Planning for six core transmission network upgrades are moving forward, including North-South lines from Sudbury to Barrie and Barrie to the Greater Toronto Area and an East-West line from Nipigon to Wawa. In addition to bringing more renewable power online, these significant upgrades will strengthen the reliability of Ontario’s transmission system and increase energy transfer across the province.