Ontario Feed-in-Tariff Review and Earth Day

Today the Ontario government announced the revised rates and rule changes for its pioneering Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) and Micro-FIT programs. While it was not surprising to see the rates being offered for wind and solar reduced in the range or 15-20% (reflecting just how substantially the cost of equipment has dropped), I was disappointed to see how dramatically the Micro-FIT rates dropped — more than 30%. I have always felt that the great potential in renewable energy lies in the fact that every one of us can either install a rooftop system on or own home, office, school or church, or we can become investors in some form of co-operative that allows our money to be pooled with others in order to accomplish a similar “community power” goal. We invest our money and take the risk, but the electricity that is produced does not get stored in batteries in some silly attempt to make every home self-sufficient, but rather we sell it when we have surplus and we buy it when we need it. In this way, we reduce line losses because electricity is always consumed as close to its site of generation as possible, we build a more resilient grid, we learn how much we consume as we track whether we are anywhere close to net zero or better… and on the list goes of major benefits. So to see the very smallest systems targetted with the biggest rate cut is, in my opinion, counter-productive in the long-term. Sure, that 80-cent rate was a political target, and it needed to come down. But is 54.9 cents (the new rate) not too low for any investor to see even the modest profit they would need to if they were to choose to make an investment, as opposed to something more akin to a philanthropic donation to cleaner energy? I am worried that we will see ordinary people lose interest, and thus the value of the program diminished. Sure, there is always the “co-op” option, but there is something truly remarkable about the idea of thousands of solar rooftops in every town or city. I hope we can continue to pursue that vision.

With Earth Day coming, there is usually a flurry of educational and community awareness activity. What better time to show my film Powerful: Energy for Everyone. Want a vision of what real energy security might look like? This is just the film. View it online at iTunes, then order a DVD copy with the required screening license for your event. I’ll make sure you have what you need if you contact me soon.

David Chernushenko