Solar system installers are worried what will happen to their businesses in 2011 when the 60% Provincial Content for MicroFIT systems kicks in. By the rules today, for systems to be eligible for the MicroFIT feed-in tariffs in 2011 the solar panels must be made in Ontario. Yet there are no large scale manufacturers here now, and it takes years to build a plant and qualify the products to CSA standards. Where will all these solar panels come from, and how much will they cost? And for consumers, can they trust a new manufacturer like they trust the big brands like Sharp Solar now?
CanSIA, the Canadian Solar Industries Association assembled a committee of MicroFIT installers to review the Provincial Content rules, and to make recommendations as to how to remove the uncertainty and promote investment. Their findings were:
1. While 40% Provincial Content is okay now, acceleration it to 60% in 2011 is detrimental. CanSIA recommends slowing the increase.
2. Too much emphasis is placed on the PV panels. If the Provincial Content is to mirror job creation is a goal, then the PV should be rated at 35% for MicroFIT, not 45%. With the lower cost PV panels available today, the solar portion is smaller, with mounts and installation labour forming a large part of the installed costs.
3. Low panel prices and access to world class PV technologies is good for the Province. The FIT and MicroFIT programs are both about jobs and rebuilding Ontario’s energy supply. Restricting the modules used to those made in Ontario will result in higher prices and less choice. This means higher tariffs will be necessary to keep the program alive. An unencumbered MicroFIT program would build more installer jobs in the communities while delivering distributed generation of clean energy. Lower Provincial Content would reduce costs faster, allowing tariffs to phase out quicker as solar electricity reaches grid parity.
One answer is to retool the Provincial Content matrix for MicroFIT as proposed below:
|Silicon that has been used as input to solar photovoltaic cells manufactured in an Ontario refinery.||10%||7%|
|Silicon ingots and wafer, where silicon ingots have been cast in Ontario and wafers have been cut from the casting by a saw in Ontario.||12%||9%|
|The crystalline silicon solar photovoltaic cells, where there active photovoltaic layer(s) have been formed in Ontario.||10%||8%|
|Solar photovoltaic modules (i.e. Panels), where the electrical connections between the solar cells have been made in Ontario and the solar photovoltaic module materials have been encapsulated in Ontario.||13%||11%|
|Inverter, where the assembly, final wiring and testing has been done in Ontario.||9%||12%|
|Mounting systems, where the structural components of the fixed or moving mounting systems have been entirely machined or formed or cast in Ontario. The metal for the structural components may not have been pre-machined outside Ontario other than peeling/roughing of the part for quality control purposes when it left the smelter or forge. The machining and assembly of the mounting system must entirely take place in Ontario (i.e. bending, welding, piercing and bolting).||9%||10%|
|Wiring and electrical hardware that is not part of other Designated Activities (i.e. items 1, 2, 3 and 5 of this table) sourced from an Ontario Supplier.||10%||10%|
|All on-site and off-site labour and services. For greater certainty, this Designated Activity shall apply in respect of all Contract Facilities.||27%||33%|
With the emphasis more on installation, and less on solar, MicroFIT installers can transition through 2011 without worry, and consumers can benefit from lower installed costs. More systems will be installed and the result: Jobs and Green Energy. Just what the Province wanted!