With pre-election announcements in full swing ahead of a June 2 vote, Ontario has shifted its net metering regulations to make it easier for homeowners, farms, and businesses to generate income from rooftop solar or other renewable energy systems by selling surplus electricity back to the grid.
The announcement comes at a time when the provincial grid faces a looming electricity supply shortage that many independent analysts blame on an over-reliance on large nuclear facilities that must now be rotated offline for refurbishment. The provincial government of Premier Doug Ford cancelled 758 renewable energy contracts after it took office in 2018, at a cost of at least $231 million, and dismantled one newly-built wind farm.
“Our government has put families back in control of their energy bills and we will continue to give them more tools to keep costs down, including new ways to lower electricity costs,” Energy Minister Todd Smith said in a release last week. “By allowing families and business to lease rooftop solar systems and benefit from net metering we are eliminating barriers, including up-front costs for customers, while at the same time supporting new jobs in our growing clean energy sector.”
“Before these amendments, the net metering program required the customer to own or operate the solar panel system to qualify as an eligible generator,” PVBuzz Media explains. “The changes clarify and enable third-party ownership arrangements for net metering, such as leasing, financing, and power purchase agreements.”
Ford and his government had previously insisted renewable energy was a costly waste of taxpayers’ money, even as the cost of installing solar and wind continued to plummet.
But the renewables industry is still welcoming last week’s news. PVBuzz calls the announcement “a stark improvement in solar policy in a Canadian province that has shunned any support for renewable energy technology in the past [few] years.”
“This regulatory clarity will enable our industry to move forward in providing Ontario consumers with more options to lower their energy costs and to reduce GHG emissions, while helping to drive job creation and growth in the province’s renewable energy sector,” said Canadian Renewable Energy Association President and CEO Robert Hornung.
PV Magazine says the boost to net metering “creates new opportunities for renewable energy businesses, including installers, developers, and service providers, to offer distributed energy solutions, like rooftop solar and other distributed energy resources.” It adds that the announcement includes consumer protection and disclosure requirements for third-party ownership deals.