UPDATE 2018: Unfortunately, there are no Ontario government incentives of any form currently.
From Ottawa, the Liberals offered some encouragement before they were elected, but we haven’t seen anything to date.
Solar support in Canada has always been an on again/ off again proposition. While there is a great amount of interest in solar, the sales of PV and to a lesser extent solar thermal often benefit from some subsidy or “feed in tariff” to keep the business growing.
The declining cost of PV systems is leaving less and less of a barrier to its installation. Now the issue is more about whether your electric utility will allow you to connect to the grid, and under what conditions.
Here’s a bit of history (and some ranting):
In the 70’s and 80’s, when we had our last big explosion in solar installations, the subsidies were impressive. When both Canada and the US had changes in governments in 80 and 84, those subsidies died and so too did all but a couple of manufacturers in Canada. At the time nearly all the manufacturers were Canadian and the technology was home grown as well. When we abandoned solar most government support either died or was severely cut.
Europe was somewhat different. The Germans, who had little natural resources to burn, decided that it was time to try to build an industry which now has over 100,000 people employed. Canada might have 3-4000 at this time. The techniques used in Europe mesh very well with the boilers used for heating every home. The technology is similar and the installers of boilers understand solar much better than our heating installers do (many have never soldered a pipe and only install forced air). We as a country make choices which are much more individualistic than community oriented. This is why we can only see a short time into the future when it comes to support for technologies which don’t have very fast paybacks for the purchaser. It is also why we demand lower taxes and then complain when there is not enough money going into the educational or health care systems. We do not see very far ahead.
Around 2006, Toronto’s Solar Neighbourhoods program led to an explosion of solar water heating installation companies. After the subsidies ended, most of these companies disappeared. PV companies remained until Ontario’s MicroFIT program ended. Then most of them disappeared in their term.
Even now, without a government incentive, whether financial or simply regulatory, alternatives to electricity and natural gas are not even considered by most homeowners or businesses.
The difficulty in getting a CSA approval and the time needed to do it means that any manufacturer has to be willing to wait for 3-5 years just to get to a level playing field with existing companies. Other countries do not put as many restrictions on their own industry, but we do. It appears that our governments would rather see offshore companies (good quality or bad) get a toehold here than build our own industry.
The cost of solar electric (PV) systems has come down to the point where it is just as inexpensive to provide domestic water heating through a PV system as through a glycol-based solar thermal system. For that reason, and for long term maintenance reasons, we prefer to install a solar PV system to heat a tank directly, rather than a solar thermal system. Any excess energy can then be redirected for other purposes, which is more difficult to do with a solar thermal system.