Letter - If solar promises sound too good to be true...

by MPP Toby Barrett - The Regional

July 28, 2010

Regrettably, many have found that if solar energy contracts and promises sound too good to be true.... they probably are.

On July 2nd, the McGuinty Government announced changes to the microFIT Tariff program that cut the subsidy for small scale ground-mounted solar electricity generation from 80.2 cents to 58.8 c KW/h. This change impacts approximately 10,000 microFIT applications - many of them in rural Ontario.

The very same day, articles ran locally recounting Energy Minister Brad Duguid's visit to a local solar installation. I find it somewhat disingenuous that during his pre-Canada Day photo-op, the Minister made no mention of his impending plan to pull out the rug.

This solar flip-flop is another sign of chaos in the rollout of Ontario's green energy program. In its rush to meet a self-imposed, unrealistic deadline to rid the province of coal, government first sets a solar price so high it creates a rush of applications, and then it pulls the plug.

Regrettably, the rate reduction bursts the solar bubble for the 10,000 applicants, mostly farmers, who had already invested time and money. These people are left on the hook by Dalton McGuinty's broken promise, and deserve to be compensated. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is lobbying the provincial government to grandfather all applications submitted prior to the change in the original contract price.

Farmers aren't alone in expressing concern. A week ago, Ontario Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, requested the Ontario Power Authority "fully disclose the financial assumptions used to justify the price cut to Ontario's renewable energy feed-in tariff ("microFIT") program." Miller noted that, regarding the public comment period, "you can't have effective consultations if all the facts are not being release."

In relation to solar, McGuinty-nomics has taken on new dimensions - proving that unbelievably high solar energy subsidies and rates of return may be just that - unbelievable.

The Reed-in-Tariff (FIT) set sky-high prices for solar and is key in attracting newfound interest in our area from the third largest corporation in the world - Samsung. As many are no doubt aware, then outgoing Energy Minister George Smitherman gave Korea's Samsung a $7 billion deal finalized by Premier McGuinty and Minister Duguid January 21, 2010.

Samsung's $7 billion untendered contract with no public review, no legislative oversight or debate, and no consultation with residents will create a solar/wind energy cluster described as, 'the largest of its kind in the world'. I have attended meetings - the people from Samsung Renewable Energy are clearly 'the smartest guys in the room'.

Discussions were heated at this month's Samsung Open House in Cayuga among those looking for answers that company reps didn't have available. Questions like: What happens to my property value? Will you provide compensation? What happens to the land when the solar cells reach expiry?

One bone of contention for our local Haldimand Federation of Agriculture is the conversion of 900 acres of farm land to industrial solar - much of it on the Ontario government-owned South Cayuga property.

Comments on the proposed solar price category can be sent to microFIT@powerauthority.on.ca, by August 3, or Ontario Power Authority, 120 Adelaide St. We. Suite 1600 Toronto, ON M5H 1T1 ATTN. Ground-Mounted Solar PV.

If the dream of impact-free green energy sounds too good to be true, it probably is We're not there yet.