Canada’s solar industry celebrates Liberal victory in Ontario election

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Update: Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has secured a third term in office by winning a tightly-contested general election. McGuinty’s Liberal party won 53 seats in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario after a late surge saw them overtake the Progressive Conservatives who secured 37 seats.

Although McGuinty fell one seat short of a majority, the result is good news for solar, which would have faced an uncertain future if Conservative leader Tim Hudak had come into power. In his election manifesto, Hudak had promised to scrap the FiT and terminate a number of renewable projects.

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The Canadian solar industry faces an anxious wait over the next 24 hours as Ontario, the country’s most PV-friendly province, goes to the polls to elect a new Premier. Defeat for current Premier Dalton McGuinty would spell the end not just to the Liberals’ term in office but also Ontario’s burgeoning solar sector.

Since assuming office in 2003, McGuinty has overseen a renewables boom, highlighted by 2009’s Green Energy Act. This legislation introduced a renewable energy feed-in tariff (FiT), which transformed the solar industry and helped PV capacity pass the 200MW mark. Should the status quo hold, the Liberals forecast renewable sources will produce 12.8% of the province’s energy by 2030.

However, in his election manifesto, Tim Hudak, the leader of the opposing Progressive Conservative Party, has promised to scrap the FiT and terminate a number of renewable projects, including a CAN$7 billion solar and wind investment agreement with Samsung C&T. Instead, the Conservatives will invest further in nuclear power, which accounted for 52% of Ontario’s electricity last year, building new reactors to fill the void created by the downscaling of renewables.

Conservative policy will undermine not just confidence within, and the commercial viability of, the solar industry, but also a booming job market. The Liberals estimate that over the coming years renewable energy will replace many of the 130,000 manufacturing roles lost during the 2008 recession and projects funded under the Green Energy program have already created 20,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Recent polls have suggested that the election could be the closest in decades, bringing with it the possibility of a first minority government in the province since 1985. A coalition would further complicate the solar debate and adds another layer of intrigue to this crucial election. The polls close at 9pm ET and the result is expected on Friday morning.

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