ELSE Canada | Past

Where have we come from?

The Canadian Solar Industry Association (CSIA) was founded in 1978. At the same time, the federal government started support programs for solar thermal manufacturing and installations. Sensing the need to have their voices heard, several PV pioneers formed the Canadian Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPVIA) a few years later.

Solar hit a bit of a rough patch as support and responsibility for research was continually shuffled back and forth between different government organizations, and the federal government, quoting dropping oil prices, withdrew incentives for solar thermal energy.

In the early days, the off-grid market represented the majority of PV sales in Canada and solar was used for water pumping, remote telecommunication, industrial sensing and road signals, among other applications. Another major market segment was hybrid off-grid systems for powering remote homes and cottages. These combined PV-wind and PV-diesel powered systems were typically about 1 kW in size and were popular in Quebec, the Prairies and the West Coast.

Grid-connected photovoltaics began gaining momentum in 2002, when major revisions to national interconnection guidelines and electrical code were undertaken to accommodate more solar energy on the mains. Several high-profile demonstration projects were also completed, including Canada's first PV neighbourhood (Kitchener-Waterloo, ON) and the first system installed on a government legislature building (Alberta provincial legislature.)

Another turning point was when a dedicated, government-funded PV research lab was founded in Quebec. Some insightful bureaucrats suggested that the two industry associations merge, so CSIA and CPVIA amalgamated in 1992 to form the Canadian Solar Industries Association, acting as a unified voice for the entire solar industry. Since then, the organization has championed successful policies to grow the industry, including:

  • the ecoEnergy Retrofits grants program (2007-2012)
  • the provincial Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program which offered a base price for renewable energy (2006-2008)
  • Ontario’s Feed-in Tariff program, which was a cornerstone of the Green Energy and Economy Act (2009-present).
  • and for new programs being developed in Quebec, Nova Scotia and Alberta.