Ontario’s solar industry is pivoting and innovating to take advantage of new markets, technologies, and opportunities. At the Solar Ontario Conference, industry and sector leaders including Thomas J. Timmins, Chair of Gowling WLG’s Global Renewables Practice and the CanSIA Board, will share their insights into the new solar energy market environment.
We sat down with Tom to learn what to expect at the conference, how Ontario companies are driving solar innovation, and what the state of the industry means for the future of the electricity grid.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What are you most looking forward to at the upcoming Solar Ontario conference?
Thomas Timmins: I look forward to reviewing how far the industry has come in recent years, and to seeing how Canadian companies and investors are integrating tech-thinking and innovation-oriented thinking into future plans.
I also look forward to updates on CanSIA’s national “Building Public Support for Solar” initiative. The team has been up to some amazing things.
Why is Solar Ontario a must-attend event for the province’s solar and energy industry players?
Thomas Timmins: Despite changes to the policy environment, solar and renewable energies are where the future is headed and the cost of energy is going down. It is critically important for Ontario to play a role in the many aspects of innovation and growth surrounding this sector. We can’t miss the boat and, to borrow the analogy recently used by Tom Friedman, we must paddle forward. Paddling backwards won’t work.
What challenges are facing the solar energy industry within Ontario’s electricity market?
Thomas Timmins: The industry is in transition. 2018 has been a pivot year. We have reached an inflection point in that the price of solar has dropped so low that it is now truly competitive. At the same time, the policy environment has shifted. The greatest challenge is transitioning from fixed-price, long-term power purchase agreements to a faster-moving, commercially driven marketplace with multiple actors and competing technologies.
That transition is not easy. Different players with different skills are entering the market. Solar is no longer only competing with nuclear, hydro, wind and gas. It is also competing with smart grid technologies, demand response technologies, hybrid behind-the-metre solutions, and more. The market is becoming more and more complex.
What are the most significant opportunities for Ontario’s solar energy industry?
Thomas Timmins: As in most industries, the pace of change is quickening. We are moving to an energy-abundant world and economy where supply seeks demand. The real opportunity, especially for Ontario companies, is in the integration and operation of combined, competing, and supporting technologies. Ontario’s solar industry will succeed as the pace of change rises.
Ontario companies are doing very well as technology innovators. They are taking the lead on a whole raft of technologies, from demand response to highly complex system operation technologies and algorithms that predict annual system peaks. The opportunities for these companies and their technologies are global.
Furthermore, Ontario anticipates an electricity supply gap in 2022. With the cost of solar dropping and clean, reliable solar becoming so much more competitive, this gap will most likely be filled in whole or in part by a combination of solar plus storage.
What will you discuss as the moderator of the Solar + Storage + the Future Grid panel?
Thomas Timmins: Building upon my last answer, solar plus storage is a real game changer driven by the declining cost of solar. Solar will cost half as much two years from now as it does today. There are very few products you can say that about. This is bringing rapid change to the distribution and transmission systems. How we produce, consume and think about energy is going to change and this shift will bring about brilliant new opportunities for solar companies.
During the panel, we will explore what innovative technology solutions are being deployed in the market and how Ontario companies can leverage energy storage options to improve product and service offerings.
You can find Tom on-stage moderating Solar + Storage + the Future Grid at the Solar Ontario Conference on November 14, 2018, 3.15-4.30 pm. He will be joined by panelists Josh Wong, President and CEO of Opus One Solutions; Oscar M. Araujo, Senior Vice President of Global Project Development at Convergent Energy and Power; Bruce Campbell, Member of the OEB Modernization Review Panel and Former IESO President and CEO; and Bart Geleynse, Director, Business Development – Americas RES.
Thomas J. Timmins is a senior corporate lawyer in Gowling WLG’s Toronto office. He is widely recognized as a leading lawyer in energy, project development, infrastructure and commercial law and has led several of the firm’s most significant power and infrastructure sector transactions.
In his corporate-commercial practice, Tom leads mergers and acquisitions, corporate reorganizations, project financing transactions, partnership formations and joint venture formations across a range of industries. He also acts regularly for governments and government agencies on PPP procurements, electrification strategy development and renewable energy project planning and procurement. More recently, Tom has been brought in to act on the development of contract forms and business model development in micro-grid project development, DER initiatives, peak shaving energy storage and emergent demand response technologies.
Tom is leader of Gowling WLG’s Global Renewable Energy Practice Group. He also serves as a member of the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) Board and on a number of public, private and social sector boards. He is a regular speaker and law school lecturer, appears regularly in national and international news media, and has been quoted in such leading news sources as The Economist, Globe and Mail, The Financial Post, World Journal, BNN and Canadian Business.
Looking for more solar energy insights?
Solar Ontario will bring together solar leaders and entrepreneurs who are ready to learn and create innovative customer value and creative technology solutions. The program will be filled with sessions to help Ontario solar companies better understand the political landscape, the upcoming net metering regulations, explore new leading-edge financing options and marketing techniques, along with numerous other informative sessions to help grow your business. Join us on November 14, 2018 at the Hilton Mississauga in Mississauga, Ontario.