Posted by: Daryl & Wendy Ashby | May 25, 2011

Mike Holmes Writes

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A while ago I wrote a column about solar leasing on residential rooftops.

These leasing programs allow homeowners to lease out their rooftops for solar panels. The panels are paid for by the energy provider — at little or no cost to the homeowner. Power that’s not used by the homeowner is fed back to the grid, and earns money for both the homeowner and the leasing company.

I thought it was a great idea then, and I think it’s a great idea now. It’s win-win. Homeowners get to both save money and make money, and we get to help the environment by using renewable energy.

But what’s happened? It’s been long enough. Why am I not seeing our rooftops covered with solar panels that provide us with electricity and allow us to sell power back to the grid? From where I sit, it looks like another great idea got stuck in politics. And I don’t understand why.

Alberta residents already have the opportunity to participate through Enmax, their utility, and they are taking advantage of it. Under the 2009 Green Energy Act passed in Ontario, homeowners can generate power from a renewable home energy installation and be paid for any surplus they are able to provide back to the grid. The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) got on board with the MircroFIT program.

Homeowners had the promise that they would get to take advantage through private companies and aggregators, such as PURE Energies. And that’s where it got stuck in politics. Aggregators install solar panels on many homes, and manage the contracts with OPA — selling the excess power back to the grid and paying the homeowners a monthly fee. The high cost of buying the solar panels, and their installation and maintenance, is paid by the aggregator — which makes solar leasing affordable for the average Canadian.

But this is where they fall between the cracks. They aren’t an individual homeowner. They aren’t a larger provider. So, the OPA stopped issuing licenses until the government created a new program that allows for aggregators and solar leasing companies. But we’re still waiting for that program.

In the meantime, these small start-up companies are on the hook and hundreds of jobs are at stake. They’ve made capital investments, hired skilled installers and have homeowners lined up to participate. Their hands are now tied and the clock is ticking. 

 The beauty of solar panel leasing is that it puts renewable energy into the hands of homeowners who otherwise could not afford the initial investment. Solar panels are expensive and the payback time is long. That makes solar power out of reach for average homeowners who would love the chance to switch to renewable energy. We’ve got a Green Energy Act in Ontario. We’ve got a commitment from the provincial government to build the green economy, to invest in opportunities that will generate lots of clean-energy ‘green’ jobs.

 The Act is meant to encourage average citizens to participate. But how are we supposed to do so when the government puts the brakes on? As an Ontarian, I’m disappointed it’s taking so long. A great program that brings affordable renewable energy to average homeowners has stalled somewhere in government. Why? Does every good idea have to be mired in politics?

As a Canadian, I’d like to know why I’m not seeing similar successful programs other provinces. I see great opportunity here and every homeowner in this country should have the chance to participate in affordable renewable energy. It creates jobs. It helps the environment. It saves homeowners money on energy. It’s logical.

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