Ontario pushed to encourage community RE projects

The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association has prepared a 60-page report for the Ontario Ministry of Energy, which has expressed an interest in stimulating community-based renewable energy projects for up to 10 megawatts of distributed generation. This would complement the request-for-proposal approach that the province has so far adopted.

“There is growing recognition that a mechanism other than the tendering process is needed to foster development of distributed generation rooted and responsible to the local community. Furthermore, European experience indicates that small, distributed projects with community or local participation result in more renewable energy developed more quickly and increases the public’s acceptance of the technology,” according to the report.

It goes on to say that this approach is largely responsible for the 16,600 megawatts of wind-generating capacity operating today in Germany. Much of that capacity comes from projects of less than 10 megawatts distributed across that country. The same can be said for Denmark and Spain.

“OSEA has concluded that the optimal approach is a Standard Offer Contract mechanism. The cornerstones of this model are 20-year fixed-price contracts for eligible projects, and the right to interconnect to the grid. These core components are underpinned by a rigorous and transparent pricing model that can be applied to all forms of renewable energy.”

I can only hope the province’s Liberal government is seriously considering the recommendations in this report. They would go a long way in not only meeting Ontario’s energy needs, but in creating local industries, jobs, and weaning ourselves off of dirty generation.

Read the report by clicking here.

Plug-in hybrids continue to get exposure

Just came across this excellent L.A. Times article by auto writer Dan Neil, who talks about his experience driving a modified plug-in Prius while providing terrific context to the plug-in debate.

With so much public pressure building for these things, he says there’s no doubt that the major automakers — even Toyota — are secretly experimenting with plug-in hybrids without publicly admitting that they’re a smart direction to head.

I encourage you to give this column a read. I’m hoping to spin my own yarn on this issue shortly.

Investors, Xantrex board lose their patience; CEO turfed

You may recall a post I had in May regarding the struggles at Burnaby, B.C.-based power electronics maker Xantrex Technology Inc.

Well, things have gotten worse, not better. Last week the company issued an earnings warning, and yesterday it formally released its second-quarter results. The company had its first quarterly loss since going public 16 months ago. Margins keep falling. Power electronic sales to the wind market are going nowhere as competition grows. Attempts to lower costs through outsourcing are going slower than planned. And while there is potential to beef up sales in the solar market in Europe, an industry shortage of solar PV panels and Xantrex’s relatively small presence in Europe have held back potential growth.

Analysts, which thought the company would have orchestrated a turnaround by now, are beginning to lose faith. Xantrex shares have been downgraded and 12-month targets lowered. Today, shares dipped below $6, about one-third their IPO value. Meanwhile, the company says it won’t provide financial guidance for the rest of the year… so we wait some more.

No surprise, then, that Xantrex’s frustrated board of directors asked CEO Ray Rosewell to leave. Effective today, they have appointed fellow director John Wallace as interim CEO. Wallace was formerly a Ford executive who oversaw the automaker’s hybrid/fuel cell/electric vehicle program. He has also held interim CEO position at Avestor, a Quebec-based maker of advanced batteries.

Analysts I spoke with seemed happy with the move, mostly because it showed a desire on the part of the board to be more proactive. Fact is, the company under Rosewell hasn’t been proactive — management has largely been reactive to market conditions, something that chairman Mossadiq Umedaly told me today didn’t do justice to the company’s otherwise sound strategy/vision. He said Rosewell was a “mismatch” for the company, which needs to be better at anticipating challenges before being blindsided by them.

Let’s hope this management change, and current restructuring efforts, will get this cleantech engine humming again.

Thinking of tapping wind power in Ontario?

Here’s an article from a local Thunder Bay newspaper about a new Web site from the Ontario government that maps wind resources throughout the province.

The site is called Ontario Wind Resource Atlas and is provided by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. It’s quite an interesting prospecting tool, and seems ideal for anybody interested in wind — whether to put up a single turbine on a plot of land or develop a multi-turbine wind farm. The site “allows users to view colour-coded maps of numerous wind statistics for any one-square-kilometre area in the province.”