By John Phair, Today’s Farmer
The president of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO) says a number of farmers who have invested or borrowed money to install solar panels on their farms have been treated unfairly in the province’s relentless push toward green energy.
Henry Stevens says he’s heard from many farmers who, after either installing solar equipment on their farms or having ordered it, are now being told they’ll not be allowed access to Ontario’s electrical grid, leaving them out of pocket for their purchases.
In a press release, Stevens said the issue is the nature of conditional offers for MicroFit solar contract offered by the Ontario Power Authority.
He said many conditional offers had been issued to interested parties, who then had to meet certain technical requirements for a May 31 installation deadline to hook up to the grid. If not, they would lose their conditional offer.
“Taking the conditional offer as a sign of good faith on the part of the OPA and the Ontario government, many of these farmers took advantage of good weather and began installing their systems last fall,” said Stevens.
“However, many of them were informed quite recently by Hydro One that their solar projects could not be connected to the grid due to load constraints.”
He said to make matters worse, no time frame has been provided for connections.
“The situation is extremely unfair to those involved,” said Stevens, adding that many within the farming community have been left with considerable capital expenses but have little hope of seeing a return on their investment in foreseeable future.
“The province has failed to act in good faith and this needs to be remedied.”
He noted that CFFO staff would be discussing the situation with Ontario Agriculture Minister Carol Mitchell and other government agencies to have the situation discussed quickly.
Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey said his office has been inundated with calls over the issue, not only from his own riding but from farmers in Middlesex County and Chatham-Kent.
Bailey said many participating in the MicroFit program have invested tens of thousands of dollars believing in good faith that the government would honour its promise.
“I think the McGuinty government has led these people down the garden path and many have invested their life-savings into this ponzi-like scheme,” said Bailey.
He said the McGuinty government should have subjected all of the energy upgrades to a rigorous feasibility study as well as an effective consultation process to have avoid the problem.