Transmissions from a Solar Conference

I’ve been at CanSIA’s Solar Canada conference the past two days. I quite enjoyed it, so much so that I want to share some of the key themes I heard while there.

Here goes:

  1. 1.  There were 5000 registered delegates, up from a few hundred a couple years ago – a clear sign of a booming industry.
  2. 2.  In many ways, the conference was very much like any other industry conference: lots of booths staffed by companies, lots of opportunities to network, and numerous panels filled with experts. But there was one major difference: people were talking about climate change, about the future they wish for their children, and about how communities can participate more actively in solar and reap more of the benefits. Solar is big business, but it’s also something these business people are really passionate about.
  3. 3.  Ontario has built the solar supply chain in a remarkably short period of time. Somewhere between 24 and 27 companies now offer solar panels that comply with the domestic content requirements, and between 12 and 14 inverters (the devices needed to translate the DC output from panels into AC needed by our grid) are now available as well. Virtually none of these companies were here a few years ago.
  4. 4.  Ontario’s supply chain now has enough players that any “Ontario premium” attributed to the domestic content requirements is already gone. There may have been a brief period where we were paying a little more for domestically manufactured products, but in the course of just two years, prices have come down and our products are competitive on the global market, which means they can tap into export markets.
  5. 5.  In an increasing number of markets, solar PV is at or near parity when compared with new generation. Parity is achievable here, too, but it will take some more time. Prices have come down significantly already, faster than expected in fact, and they will continue to come down. The subsidies currently in place are temporary.
  6. 6.  A Feed in Tariff (FIT) is the best way to build out renewables, and Ontario’s program is among the best in the world. There have been some challenges, no doubt, but the Province is currently undertaking a review of the FIT program and they have an opportunity to improve it. All eyes are on Ontario; if the review goes well, the pressure will be on other provinces to follow Ontario’s lead.
  7. 7.  Everyone agreed that solar is the way of the future. The question is how quickly will that future arrive, and who will be the leading nations and jurisdictions at that time. With the Green Energy Act, Ontario has positioned itself to be among the leaders.

Now, we have to improve the program and stay the course.