Since its launch in 2009, the FIT Program has helped create certainty in Ontario’s economy, attract new investment, spur jobs and economic benefits for communities, and support a healthier future for all Ontarians. From the consultations emerged recommendations in six strategic areas that will enhance the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) Program and ensure its continued success.
Continue Ontario’s commitment to clean energy
The FIT Program moved Ontario forward as a leader in clean energy. The program continues to be one of the best ways to attract investment, build clean energy and encourage local participation in the electricity sector. Ontario’s clean energy initiatives have been a success, creating more than 20,000 jobs, on track to creating 50,000 jobs and attracting more than $27 billion in private-sector investment. With Ontario on track to procure 10,700 MW of non-hydro renewable energy generation by 2015, the government should review Ontario’s electricity supply and demand forecast in 2013 to explore whether a higher renewables capacity target is warranted.
Streamline processes and create jobs
Ontario has been a North American leader in clean energy procurement. There are currently about 2,900 MW of FIT projects moving through environmental approvals, such as the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) process. To stimulate job creation and economic investments in local communities, Ontario should improve the regulatory approvals process, while maintaining the highest standards of environmental protection. For example, regulatory ministries should better align approvals with the size and characteristics of a project, reduce duplication, improve service standards and streamline the process – this could improve timelines for project approval by up to 25 per cent.
Encourage greater community and Aboriginal participation
Projects with local participation lead to significant economic opportunities and job creation benefits for the communities they are located in. The FIT Program should prioritize projects through a new system that is designed to award points based on the participation of local or Aboriginal communities. To ensure that projects are rooted in and that investment remains in the community the Province should reserve a minimum of 10 per cent of the remaining FIT contract capacity for community and Aboriginal projects.
Improve municipal engagement
There is an opportunity for municipalities to play a greater role in the development of renewable energy across the province. Projects with municipal support should be prioritized by awarding points during the application review process. In addition, the province should clarify project-siting rules by removing all exemptions and strengthening the protection of prime agricultural lands. Solar ground-mount projects should not be permitted in or bordering residential areas. Solar ground-mount projects should be permitted in commercial or industrial areas only where energy generation is a secondary use, helping ensure responsible project development. In consultation with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), the Province should revise the Municipal Consultation Form in the REA process.
Reduce prices to reflect lower costs
When Ontario launched the FIT Program in 2009, prices were set to reflect capital costs, provide investors stability and cultivate a domestic clean energy industry. While balancing the interests of all Ontarians, the clean energy sector and program participants, FIT prices should be reduced by more than 20 per cent for solar, on average, and approximately 15 per cent for wind. Prices for hydro, biogas, biomass and landfill gas should be maintained at the current level. In order to support the sustainability of the program, prices should be adjusted annually to reflect current costs.
Expand Ontario’s clean energy economy
In light of the province’s significant commitment to renewable energy and early investment in smart grid technologies, Ontario’s clean energy expertise is substantial and growing. To leverage this experience, the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation should develop a Clean Energy Economic Development Strategy that recognizes Ontario’s diverse strengths.