The Canadian province of Ontario ranked second in solar Photovoltaic (PV) installed capacity in North America in 2010, trailing only California. With 220 MW installed in 2010 alone, the province is attracting huge attention from the international PV industry.
InterPV magazine spoke with Jared Donald, President of Conergy Canada, to discuss the current status and future prospect of the Canada PV market. Donald is responsible for Conergy’s sales, EPC and manufacturing operations in Canada. He has been working with Conergy (and Conergy-acquired ETI Solar) for the last 6 years occupying various technical and sales management roles and assuming the role of President at the start of 2010.
Reported by Jeanny H. Lim (email@example.com)
What has influenced the rapid growth in solar in Ontario?
The exceptional growth Canada has experienced in Ontario is a direct response to the Ontario government’s implementation of two subsequent feed-in tariff programs─the original RESOP and current FiT programs. The two FiT programs provided the policy support foundation that the solar industry needed for growth. That, paired with the private sector investment we have seen from innovative local and international companies, has really accelerated the industry growth.
Could you update us on the current status and recent developments of the Ontario PV market?
Today, Ontario’s solar industry supports the equivalent of 8,200 full-time solar jobs. The FiT and microFiT programs have been very successful in accomplishing their goals of increasing employment, but we could have experienced greater success had the entire implementation process been planned and implemented with the entire supply chain in mind. When the program was first implemented, the market was quite immature. So, when the market was given momentum and began to grow rapidly, the downstream value chain including permitting, inspections and other enabling functions, was not ready. This caused the market to experience delays in deployment, face challenges with grid constrains and postponements in application and approval processes. However, even with these challenges, the programs have proven successful and now that the market has reached a more mature state, many more solar installations will move through the pipeline.
Ontario’s solar growth is unprecedented, but it is a very early market that’s only been around for about two years. What challenges will it face going forward?
Since the Ontario solar market is still reaching maturity, the value chain is still being developed. Once all of the players of the value chain are in place, then installations will happen more effectively. This includes an efficient application, approval and connection process. These steps are critical to driving down install costs to a more sustainable level. Continued policy support over the next three years is crucial for the industry to develop a long-standing foothold in Ontario. After these first critical 3 years, the industry will be in a much better position to support itself with lower subsidy rates.
PV manufacturing base in Canada is expanding and many innovative companies are emerging. Could you update us on the PV manufacturing landscape in Canada?
We have seen a rapid emergence of a wide range of solar energy manufacturers establishing operations in Ontario─almost 30 solar PV module and inverter manufacturing facilities have been established across the Province. The FiT program’s local content requirements have attracted both established international manufacturers, like Conergy, as well as some new startup organizations. The local manufacturing investment made thus far has primarily been from manufacturers using traditional crystalline cells in the modules they assemble locally. The current manufacturing base should provide enough supply for the demand expected from the contracts that have already been issued by the OPA (Ontario Power Authority).
What will the legislative and regulatory challenges be in 2012?
Ontario citizens went to the polls on October 6th to elect a new provincial government. The election, paired with a review of the FiT rates that is currently underway, means that the Ontario solar energy market is in the middle of a very uncertain political environment and the future growth of the FiT program is somewhat unknown. Our expectation is that there will be continued support for renewable energy, and specifically solar PV, beyond the end of 2011, but at this time it is unclear what that support will look like.
What are your expectations for the Canadian PV market in 2012?
Analysts are currently predicting moderate growth in solar markets outside of Ontario. There is consistent annual demand from the traditional off-grid markets and non-subsidized PV markets across the country; however, the industry is expecting 2012, similarly to 2009 through 2011, to be dominated by the Ontario PV market.
As forecasted by solar energy and market analysts, the Ontario market should experience strong growth in 2012. This growth is attributed to the installation of projects that were applied for throughout the RESOP era and at the beginning of the FiT program. Furthermore, assuming the government formed from the October 6th election is in support of a continued residential solar PV market in Ontario, the market should see consistent growth in the deployment of solar PV in urban and rural residential installations across the province.
Do you think Canada is sending the right signal to the international PV industry by introducing regulations such as domestic content requirements?
The Ontario manufacturing sector was hit pretty hard by the slowing economy. Ontario has a very proud history of manufacturing, and the domestic content requirements enacted by the Green Energy Act’s FiT program are helping to pave the way for future manufacturing growth in the province.
It is clearly evident from the rapid growth in the PV manufacturing sector in Ontario that the local manufacturing policy requirements are working. We are now seeing similar policies in Asia and Europe which lends evidence to the fact that these policies will become more common in the future. The PV manufacturing sector will need to develop strategies around servicing these types of subsidy markets as they continue to develop.
Local manufacturing has several distinct advantages over global sourcing, such as reduced transit times and emissions, tailor-made local products and local employment, however, there is a scale-up period that must be understood and accounted for when planning this type of policy.
What is your strategy for the Canadian PV market?
Conergy is active in the residential-, commercial- and utility-scale markets across Canada. Our focus is providing our customers with the right products and services to grow their businesses as the PV market develops.
Conergy’s long-standing global experience in PV manufacturing and installation affords us the knowledge required to deliver the absolute best quality products, project development and technical support available in Ontario.
Conergy puts a strong emphasis on providing value-added engineering and design services that allow our customers to deliver projects that they may not be able to take on without our support.
What is your competitive advantage over other players in Canada?
Conergy’s Canadian operations have been in place prior to and throughout the FiT program. This has provided our organization long-standing relationships with local customers and suppliers and affords us the ability to quickly ramp up operations in new markets as they develop here in Canada. But we are also backed by global experience in other markets and, therefore, we are able to implement internationally learned best practices at a local level.
Is there anything that we didn’t talk about that you would like our readers to know?
Conergy is dedicated to bringing new and innovative locally manufactured products to Ontario to ensure our customers have access to industry-leading products for their installations throughout Canada. We will continue investing in our organizational competencies to ensure that Conergy’s channel partners have the resources required to continue growing their organizations. Conergy’s success is directly correlated to the success of our customers and we will continue to improve our products and services to meet the ever-changing demand of the market.
Jeanny H. Lim is Editor-in-Chief of InterPV. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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