Canada's utility-scale solar market to grow, diversify, says EDF EN

Canada will become an increasingly attractive market for utility-scale solar development in the years ahead, with the market diversifying beyond Ontario, an EDF EN Canada executive predicts.

To date, nearly all utility-scale solar development in Canada has taken place in Ontario, grown first on the back of the province’s earlier standing-offer and feed-in tariff programmes, and now through its Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) competitive tender rounds.

EDF EN Canada, a unit of France’s EDF Energies Nouvelles, was a pioneer in the Ontario solar market, building 60MW at half a dozen projects between 2009-2011, much of the capacity eventually sold to Fiera Axium, the Toronto-based infrastructure fund.

In recent years, the developer has been largely focused on wind in Canada, carving out a position of leadership in the Quebec wind market, and building many of the country’s largest wind farms.

But these days EDF EN  is once again revving its solar engine in Canada, having bid three projects totaling 86MW into Ontario’s first LRP round, including the 60MW Napanee Solar Energy Center project in southeastern Ontario.

EDF EN Canada also bid 370MW of wind capacity into the LRP1 round.

The winners of Ontario’s fiercely competitive LRP1 round – to include up to 300MW of wind and 140MW of solar – will be announced shortly.

“I believe solar will be an important part of the energy mix in Canada – it’s already an important part in Ontario,” Cory Basil, vice president for development at EDF EN Canada, said in a recent interview.

“The cost competitiveness of solar is improving very, very fast,” Basil says.

“I think we'll see solar, and opportunities for solar, outside of Ontario,” he says. “It’s only a matter of time until solar procurements start to take place in other provinces.”

Significant uncertainty surrounds the medium-term market for large wind and solar projects in many Canadian provinces, including Ontario, given the lack of demand for additional power generation.

But EDF EN is optimistic about the longer-term prospect for renewables growth in Canada, and believes that even in the near-term new opportunities may emerge.

As an example, Basil points to the possibility of a quicker-than-expected coal phase-out in Alberta, thanks to the recently elected left-leaning government of Prime Minister Rachel Notley.

“That’s very exciting for companies in the renewables space,” he says.