The cost of solar installations has risen sharply in recent years.
While the industry has been improving its efficiency over the last few years, the average cost of a solar panel is still higher than the cost of conventional power plants, said Bruce Fenton, a vice president at energy consultancy SunEdison.
But with a growing number of new installations in many provinces, Fenton said the industry is still a long way from a sustainable solution.
“There is a lot of pressure on the industry to get a return on its investment in the future,” he said.
He said that despite the increased demand for solar energy, the industry’s average cost per watt of power has not grown significantly since 2008.
Solar power can generate as much electricity as the entire grid, and Fenton estimated that if the industry was able to increase its efficiency, it could generate electricity for as little as $30 per kilowatt-hour.
Fenton noted that solar panels typically use less electricity than wind turbines, so the cost per kWh is usually less than that.
“It’s just an assumption, and I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the industry will get to zero cost,” he added.
“Solar is still not a viable option for all of us, and we’re going to continue to be driven by cost.”
In Ontario, the province’s largest solar developer, SunEdson, said that its average price per watt is less than half of the industry average.
The company said its prices have been rising over the past few years and the cost for new panels has risen to $4.90 a watt.
“It’s not a very good price point,” said Steve Taylor, SunEidson’s director of solar installation and procurement.
“I don’t see the industry getting there in a timely fashion.”
As part of its energy efficiency strategy, SunPower recently released a new set of data that show that the average price of a power system’s solar panels has declined in recent months.
In addition, a new report released by the Canadian Association of Power Consumers says that solar is the fastest growing power system on the grid, with installations increasing faster than wind and hydro in Canada.
The association estimates that in 2019, wind and solar accounted for about 17 per cent of the electricity generation capacity on the country’s grid.
Meanwhile, Ontario is the only province in the country where more than 80 per cent (76 per cent) of new solar installations are currently on the private sector, according to SunPower.
While the industry may have a difficult time achieving zero-cost growth, Fence said it could be a key tool to help reduce emissions.
“We know that we’re making a lot more power than we need, and there is an opportunity to build on that, and to invest in energy efficiency,” he told CBC News.
“And I think it is very important to recognize that we are at a critical point in our energy system.
And if we can get more energy out of the grid in a sustainable way, we can save the planet and we can make a lot smarter choices.”