Solar to reach grid parity in Ontario by 2020, maybe earlier

I know there’s been a lot of talk about “grid parity” for solar PV without subsidies, and in which year this milestone is likely to be reached. The date I’ve heard the most is 2015, and even then, only in places with lots of sun and expensive electricity — like California. One could argue this is a pointless discussion, given that conventional forms of electricity generation are also subsidized (though this isn’t transparent) and don’t take into account externalities like the impact of pollution on the environment, health and the climate. But I digress.

At the Canadian Solar Industries Association two-day annual conference in Toronto today Andrew Kinross from Navigant Consulting said he expected grid parity in Ontario to be reached between 2020 and 2023. This is based on an expected increase in fossil fuel prices and the expectation that CO2 emission credits will be valued at $70 per ton. While 2020 might sound like a long time, one has to consider that Ontario currently has relatively inexpensive electricity prices in a North American context (and certaintly compared to Europe) and there are less hours of sunlight over a year compared to, say, California.

As much as 12 years sounds like a long time, I don’t see it that way. I was married eight years ago and it seems like yesterday. I smile thinking that my oldest daughter will be 18 years old when this milestone is reached, and my youngest just 15. To think that my grandchildren will take solar PV for granted (and will see coal power as so yesterday) the same way my girls take the Internet and iPods for granted (and can’t imagine a world of typewriters, film cameras and vinyl records), it makes me smile. Hell, 12 years ago I remember just graduating from journalism school. Blackberry devices were just two-way pagers. We didn’t have home wireless networks. We still used dial-up Internet services at home.  I got my first DVD player. Cellphones then were a novelty. Today, they’re pretty much a necessity.

Time flies, and 12 years has gone by so fast. At the same time, so much has happened over those years to transform how we work and play. More than that, some companies I spoke with at the conference thought Ontario would get there sooner than 2020.

Interesting days… It’s a reason to get excited and to hope.

NOTE: If you’re interested in hearing about the first day of the Canadian solar conference, click here. And for a sense of what the Ontario government might be planning to further boost renewable energy and green-collar job creation in the province, click here.

Oh, and one more thing: Greentech Media has a story about First Solar and one analyst’s claim that it has reached the coveted grid-parity milestone with its thin-film modules.

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