The new provincial government in Ontario has changed the conversation on solar energy, bringing forward new questions and unprecedented opportunities for the industry. At the Solar Ontario Conference, industry and sector leaders including John Gorman, President and CEO of CanSIA, will share their insights into the new solar environment during Brave New World – The Opportunities and Perils for Solar within Ontario’s Electricity Market.
We sat down with Mr. Gorman to learn what the new political environment means for solar energy and how the industry can adapt to compete and grow market share.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What can attendees expect from your session, Brave New World?
John Gorman: The solar industry is certainly in a different position with this new provincial Conservative government, led by Premier Doug Ford, than what we had grown used to with the previous government. Early moves to fulfil campaign commitments, such as canceling early-stage green energy contracts, have left many of us worried about what the future of our industry looks like. At the same time, this government’s commitments to market-driven environments and consumer-centric solutions are well aligned with the value proposition of solar energy. This, combined with the increasingly progressive stance of utilities, the OEB and the IESO, means that solar and solar-enabling technologies like storage may actually have a larger role to play in the new political context.
During this panel, we will receive tremendous insights from experts on the role of solar and storage in this Brave New World.
In the face of changing political agendas, how do you envision the path forward for solar energy in Ontario?
John Gorman: Solar can be an asset to this new government – and we need to focus on aligning our opportunities with its goals and mandate. Empowering homeowners. Lowering hydro bills. Cutting red tape. Creating jobs in skilled trades. All of these are priorities of our industry, and they are the priorities of Premier Ford. Solar is not just the future of energy systems – it can play a decisive role in fulfilling the commitments of government.
What are the greatest opportunities for the solar energy industry within Ontario’s electricity market?
John Gorman: The greatest opportunities for solar in the Ontario market are tied to the technology’s ability to save customers—at all scales—money on their electricity bills. This isn’t simply a result of the continued cost-effectiveness of stand-alone solar. Increasingly, solar PV is being integrated with emerging technologies—solar-enabling technologies—into energy management systems, microgrids, and other configurations that empower consumers. Consumer awareness and demand combined with the modernization of the grid is presenting real opportunities, especially for those solar energy companies that understand how to participate in delivering integrated solutions.
What are the greatest challenges for the solar energy industry within Ontario’s electricity market?
John Gorman: The persistent challenges for solar in the Ontario market center around red-tape, restrictions on private sector financing and lack of consumer choice. However, challenges can often become opportunities when viewed through a different lens.. The new government places a strong emphasis on addressing these specific issues. CanSIA has launched the most robust campaign in its history to demonstrate the value of solar to consumers of all sizes and to the electricity grid. We are working with the government to address these challenges.
How can the solar industry adapt and position itself for success?
John Gorman: Solar is a non-partisan proposition. We have no home in one party or another. Our industry is representative of Canadians from all walks of life, and it employs thousands of people in the skilled trades including installers, electricians, roofers and constructors. We are a sure-fire bet to give homeowners and businesses alike the tools they need to reduce their bills and support a low-carbon economy. These propositions appeal to all parties – and our association will play a key role in ensuring all governments and political parties support this proposition.
So, our approach needs to focus on shared priorities. We are going to start by pursuing a significant reduction in the red tape that is preventing growth in rooftop solar and offers consumers no path to avoid steep upfront costs. The government needs to understand that the reason solar energy is not Ontario’s cheapest option is that there is too much red tape surrounding the process of putting it on roofs. It takes months to receive approval for a solar project, even though putting solar on a house should be no different than installing a furnace or water heater.
What are you most looking forward to at Ontario’s Solar Energy Conference?
John Gorman: This year’s event is going to be unlike any other. The Ford government’s early announcements have obliterated the old paradigm for supporting solar in this province. At the same time, we have an unprecedented opportunity under this government to hit the “reset” button and correct legacy issues that have hindered the penetration of solar and the growth of our industry. I look forward to engaging with panellists and attendees to discuss what a solar future, based on modernization, market-competitiveness and customer choice, looks like.
The Plenary Session, Brave New World – The Opportunities and Perils for Solar Within Ontario’s Electricity Market, will take place on November 14, 9:30 to 10:30 am.