Residential rooftop solar installations. (Archive)

When it comes to global markets like the U.S. and China, it feels like we see promising updates almost daily as far as solar is concerned. With success all around us, however, we have to ask ourselves, what the heck is happening here at home?

Our friends in Alberta, where the solar industry should be booming, remain stuck in limbo as they await government decisions around incentives for homeowners. With declining sales, this limbo could mean layoffs for several employed in the industry as companies wait to hear from the government on the future of solar in the province.

Here in Ontario, we’ve seen holds and cancellations on incentive programs that have caused considerable instability in the market, leaving many uncertain of solar’s feasibility long-term. With Ontario being the largest solar market in Canada by a landslide, taking the cake for having more solar installations than the rest of the country combined, this is incredibly unnerving, not to mention recent rate drops that make solar less appealing for homeowners.

In 2016, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), which oversees the power market in Ontario, implemented significant rate drops for homeowners supplying solar energy to the grid. Now, homeowners receive less money back per kilowatt-hour of energy supplied to the province, generated by their residential solar panels.

While this sparked an artificial spike in the market toward the end of 2015, with interested customers getting orders in before the rate drop, this has effectively made solar less feasible for homeowners in the province ever since, who now have a harder time offsetting the costs of installations.

When we look at these recent trends, we have to wonder why we are managing the solar industry in Canada so poorly – an industry that represents the future of energy in this country. Where is the disconnect between expert recommendations and government decisions?

If you take the rate drops in Ontario, for example, what’s puzzling is that they are not aligned with recommendations put forward by the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA), our national organization that facilitates the “responsible and sustainable growth of solar energy across Canada.” CanSIA’s recommended rates for 2016 were 38.4 cents per kilowatt-hour for rooftop solar panels, and yet, the IESO implemented rates of just 29.4 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Is this what we call responsible decision-making? Certainly, this does not represent the “sustainable growth of solar energy in Canada.”

As an industry that’s incredibly dependent on government policy to succeed, we have to ask ourselves, what more can we be doing to secure a sustainable future for solar in Canada?

If industry representatives are ineffective at informing government decisions, where does that leave us?

It’s time to band together and fight for the fate of the industry before it’s too late.

This article was written for by Bobby MacCannell, and Edited by Derick Lila.

Bob possesses a wealth of experience in the solar PV industry working with commercial, residential and institutional customers. His company advocates for sustainable energy in Ontario through customer-education, and the installations of solar energy systems.

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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  1. USA 16GW’s in 2106. Canada 0.2 GW’s….. lots of shinny new pipelines though.

  2. Thanks for a great article. There exists an urgent need in Ontario for the smaller player not only to have a voice but perhaps even more urgently to have a forum for sharing information on common issues.

  3. Bobby – this article frustrates me greatly for many reasons. Here are three of them: i) you have not made an effort to become informed on what CanSIA are working toward for the residential solar sector in Ontario; ii) you are not a CanSIA Member but have an expectation that we will represent your company pro bono; and iii) our recent member polling shows that 80% of small companies in our Membership belive that we are an effective advocate on their behalf.

    Mark – feel free to address any issues to Ben. We welcome feedback from our Members.

    1. @Patrick: I believe the intention of this “Opinion” piece is to comment on the state of the solar industry in Canada. Its purpose is to invite a conversation on what needs to be done to shape a better solar future for the country. What we need to ask ourselves right now is this: What immediate steps do we need to take in order to ensure that the solar process from lead to system installation in Canada remains sustainable. Don’t you think so?

      1. Intent aside, the piece opines on the effectiveness of many talented and dedicated advocates who have achieved alot for our industry through tireless and thankless efforts over many years. The author is not well-positioned to understand the breadth of their efforts, extent of their successes….yet alone disregard them as “ineffective”.

        1. @Patrick Bateman: I disagree with you, plus you shouldn’t take it too personal. The author has a business that operates within the solar industry in Canada, and just like most solar installers–he is knowledgeable of industry developments. So he is voicing his frustrations as a stakeholder and as someone who cares about the industry and wants to see it grow and become successful. Your approach should be to seek out ways to be of service and not seek to rebuke his efforts as being “unconstructive.”

          1. I agree with the sentiment of the closing sentence “It’s time to band together and fight for the fate of the industry before it is too late”. That is CanSIA’s raison d’etre. I would encourage everyone with commercial interests in the sector to support their national trade association if they are not doing so already

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