"Unfortunately the Ontario Government got twitchy about green energy and, after delays in announcing version 2.0 of the FIT program, it decided to focus on smaller rooftop systems at the expense of larger, ground-mounted utility scale systems."
If only this were so simple.
According to a study out of Queen's University about a year ago, there is about 5GWp of available power on Ontario commercial rooftops - taking into account things like HVAC units, blockage from trees or parapets, etc. 5GW is nicely matched with the peak pattern in Ontario, which varies from about 11.5GW at night to about 17.5 during the day.
So given these numbers, it might seem that a good program would be one that focussed on these roofs - which are otherwise wasted space, and as they are flat, easy to install on, and thereby the greatest economic bang for the buck. The panels last about 25 years (actually, all indications are longer, but for now we'll stick with the industry standard number) so if we wanted to install 1/25th of our desired peak load every year, the program would be buying 250MW a year, a very reasonable number. And the result would be a program that naturally fell to grid parity over time, like the similar program in Germany, would be steady in terms of development, and would "start over" in 25 years when those first panels started to wear out and thereby provide constant employment.
So that would be a good idea, right?
I guess that's why they're not doing it.
Instead, the program has been constantly meddled with in a seemingly desperate attempt to fill holes that allowed people to game the system. For instance, in the original program one could install up to 10 kW using the dramatically paperwork-simplified microFIT program, which was intended to give homeowners a way to install a handful of panels and still make economic sense. This is the reason for the very high tariff for the microFIT program, 80.2 cents, which is needed to offset the very high relatively cost of installing just a few panels,
Instead, developers immediately deluged the program with tens of thousands of ground-mounted installs, where it is easier and cheaper to install. Double-digit returns were trivial. So the rules were changed to lower the tariff to 65 cents. So now the developers starting installing units on various bits of land owned by one person. So the rules were changed to eliminate this. So the developers...
Under the current rules, installing on those commercial roofs is basically impossible. In order to eliminate the possibility of companies buying multiple systems, the microFIT program can only be applied for by a "natural person". This, of course, eliminates every commercial rooftop, which are by definition owned by companies. Now they can still apply under the larger FIT program, but only at the cost of hundreds of pages of paperwork that costs tens of thousands of dollars to complete, only to get the lower tariff originally intended for low-cost ground-mount systems.
So it's the rock of impossible to meet legislative requirements or the hard place of a system that can never pay for its own overhead.
This is the sort of thing that happens when people pass legislation when they don't really understand a topic, nor precisely what they're trying to accomplish. There was no clear goal in terms of the amount of power they wanted to get from PV, where they wanted it to be installed, or whom should be involved.
And here we are three years later and the program continues to lurch from new vision to new vision, with no apparent long-term policy. Any hope of providing either steady employment or a sensible power policy have been abandoned. It's sad to see.
As your article points out, this is a local effect: globally PV is either the #1 or #2 fastest growing power source - wind being the other. But that is little consolation to either the taxpayers or workers of Ontario, both of whom bet on a future our bureaucracy couldn't figure out how to deliver.