Paula Mints

Job title:
Principal Analyst for Navigant Consulting’s PV Service Market Research Program

Areas of expertise:
Photovoltaic (PV) technologies and markets

Paula Mints is the principal analyst for Navigant’s PV Service Market Research Program, and executive editor of the Solar Outlook Newsletter, and is widely recognised as an industry expert on photovoltaic (PV) technologies and markets. She has 10 years of experience providing research products and insight about the photovoltaic industry.

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Ontario: A complicated new frontier for PV

First came the announcement, then came optimism, then came the announcements, then came the reality checks and finally, the changes to Ontario’s wildly anticipated feed-in tariff; not to kill it off, but to control it and, hopefully, help develop a sustainable market.

Historically, Canada has been a market for remote (habitation, industrial and consumer power) applications with relatively low cumulative installations of around 57 MWp - as of 2008. In 2009, demand in Ontario was 60 MWp.

In 2008, 57% of Canada’s demand was for grid-connected PV, and this increased to 91% in 2009.

Though the Ontario FiT was anticipated with frenzied enthusiasm, the program was beset with problems before it began, and solving those problems has proven complex for the Ontario Power Authority (OPA). Months later, optimism remains high, but insufficient transmission has controlled growth of multi-megawatt systems, while the over-subscribed microFiT program is experiencing a rapid degression of its tariff rate.

The OPA was created in 2004, has an AA credit rating and reports to the Ontario Legislative Assembly through the minister of energy and infrastructure. OPA acts as the buy side for the four entities that were created when the heavily indebted Ontario Hydro was broken into four entities.

The most supply potential in Ontario for renewables is in the northern part of Ontario, while the demand is in the southern part of the province. Unfortunately, there is currently insufficient transmission to achieve Ontario’s plans to ramp down the use of coal and nuclear in Ontario - and ramp up the use of renewables. Over the next 20-years Ontario plans to replace 20-gigawatts of its current coal/nuclear production. Transmission expansion (supply = north, distribution = south), will move forward, but before it does, case by case transmission analyses must be undergone, and solar projects (specifically, multi-megawatt projects) will not move forward until transmission is in place.

For large projects, the generator must pay for the line and the upgrade. On the distribution side, the generator pays for the line, but other costs ripple through the entire system (the ratepayers). Projects must pass the transmission availability test (TAT), the distribution availability test (DAT), and the economic connection test (ECT).

Projects that pass the economic availability test will move to the FiT production line and wait until the required upgrade (or build) has received the necessary approvals, and the OPA is reasonably certain that the upgrades will be completed in time for the project to meet other milestones. Projects not passing the economic connection test will wait in the FiT reserve, which may prove to be a sort of project limbo.

Projects falling into the FiT reserve category may withdraw the application, forfeit the time stamp, and receive a refund of the application security. Projects >10-kWp have a requirement for 50% domestic content if put into commission before 1 January 1 2011, and after this date the requirement increases to 60% domestic content. As Canada has not historically had significant cell and thin film technology manufacturing, this requirement may be met by modules assembled in Canada, with cells produced elsewhere. 

Table 1 provides the parameters for the TAT, the DAT and the economic availability test.


Transmission Availability Test Result Next step
There is currently connection availability, or Pass Proceed to contract if transmission-connected, or
Connection availability is expected before the project's milestone date for commercial operation Proceed to distribution availability test if distribution-connected
There is insuficcient connection availability Fail Proceed to next economic connection test
Project will serve as input to future transmission expansion plans
Distribution Availability Test Result Next step
There is currently connection availabity, or Pass Proceed to contract
There are currently planned and approved distribution system upgrades that will allow the project to connect by the project's milestone date for commercial operation
There are currently distribution system upgrades planned that are pending approval; or Pass Proceed to FIT production line
There are currently approved distribution system upgrades however, they will not be completed in time to allow the project to connect by the project's milestone date for commercial operation
There is insufficient connection availability Fail Proceed to next economic connection test
The project will serve as input to future distribution expansion
Economic Connection Test Result Next step
Required system expansions are deemed to be economical and will be included in transmission and distribution expansion plans Pass Proceed to FIT production line
Contract will be awarded when required system expansions are approved and will be constructed in time to allow the project to connect and be in service by its milestone date for commercial operation
Required system expansions are not deemed to be economical at this time Fail Proceed to FIT reserve. Project will be re-evaluated during the next economic connection test, together with all other projects in teh FIT reserve and FIT production line
Project will serve as input to future expansion plans

A project’s date of planned commercial operation is extremely important to its place on the FiT queue. Applications with a specific, accelerated date for commercial operation have priority with all others awarded FiT according to a lottery. OPA plans to complete the first ECT sometime during Q1 2011.


System Type System Size 2011 Tariff (C$/kWh) Term (years) Degression
Roof or Ground ≤10 kWp 0.802 20 None
>10-250 kWp 0.713 20
≥250-500 kWp 0.635 20
>500 kWp 0.539 20
Ground Mounted >10 kWP - ≤10 MWp 0.443 20 None
Ground Mounted (proposed)1 ≤10 kWp 0.588 20 None

*Information current as of report publication


1. In July 2010, the OPA the OPA and the provincial Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure announced that rates for ground-mounted solar projects under the micro feed-in-tariff program (microFIT) would be reduced to $0.588 cents CAD/kWh to be implemented in August 2010.

Posted 11/08/2010 by Paula Mints

Tagged under: feed-in tariff , solar , pv , fit , transmission

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