‘Very un­cer­tain fu­ture’

So­lar Is­land Elec­tric Inc. told el­i­gi­bil­ity for tax credit pro­gram would end af­ter this year, mean­ing com­pany might have to fo­cus its ef­forts on clients off-Is­land

Journal Pioneer - - THE ISLAND - BY STU NEATBY

The pres­i­dent of a lo­cal so­lar panel com­pany says he has hit a road­block in ob­tain­ing fu­ture as­sis­tance from a pro­gram once pro­moted as a cor­ner­stone of pro­vin­cial sup­port for P.E.I.’s so­lar sec­tor.

Steve Howard, pres­i­dent of So­lar Is­land Elec­tric Inc., said it has taken him a year to ob­tain ap­proval for a tax credit from the Com­mu­nity Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Busi­ness pro­gram. The CEDB pro­gram pro­vides a 35 per cent tax credit for Is­lan­ders who in­vest in lo­cal busi­nesses. The pro­gram was iden­ti­fied as a key gov­ern­ment pro­gram for pro­mot­ing the Is­land’s so­lar in­dus­try in the 2016 pro­vin­cial en­ergy strat­egy.

Howard said he was ap­proved for the tax credit in May, but for only a third of the amount he had hoped to raise from lo­cal in­vestors.

“We had to fight for quite some time to get it go­ing,” Howard said. “We fi­nally got ap­proved but not ap­proved for what we had asked for, ap­proved for ba­si­cally a third of what we had asked for, but with this stip­u­la­tion that we’ll never ap­prove that busi­ness model again.”

Howard said So­lar Is­land Elec­tric Inc. was one of the most well­known so­lar en­ter­prises on P.E.I. The co-op­er­a­tive al­lows Is­lan­ders to in­vest in so­lar devel­op­ment and off­set the high cost of in­stal­la­tion on build­ings. The com­pany had been ap­proved for the CEDB tax credit since 2014. “We’ve had many calls from folks in­ter­ested in the pro­gram, but we’ve had to tell them it’s a very un­cer­tain fu­ture,” Howard said.

Howard said with­out the CEDB tax credit, the com­pany might have to fo­cus its ef­forts on clients in Nova Sco­tia rather than P.E.I. A spokesper­son for the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment said So­lar Is­land Elec­tric Inc.’s share pur­chase and panel leas­ing busi­ness model “raised ques­tions.”

“We are as­sess­ing fu­ture el­i­gi­bil­ity,” read a state­ment emailed to The Guardian.

The is­sue was raised on Wed­nes­day in the leg­is­la­ture by PC MLA Jamie Fox, who ac­cused En­ergy Min­is­ter Paula Big­gar of fail­ing to pro­mote so­lar en­ergy on P.E.I.

“Why are you so against hav­ing Is­lan­ders in­vest in so­lar power?” Fox asked dur­ing ques­tion pe­riod on Wed­nes­day.

The ques­tion was part of a vol­ley of ques­tions lev­elled against gov­ern­ment min­is­ters by PC MLAs about so­lar devel­op­ment on P.E.I.

The ques­tions came af­ter a Na­tional En­ergy Board re­port found that P.E.I. and Saskatchewan are the most eco­nom­i­cally cost-ef­fec­tive prov­inces for so­lar panel devel­op­ment.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Heath MacDon­ald dis­puted that CEDB fund­ing for so­lar en­ter­prises had been dis­con­tin­ued.

“So­lar Is­land has been in con­tact with our of­fice. We’ll con­tinue to work with them and pos­si­bly ex­pand what we have al­ready,” MacDon­ald said. But, Howard said the news that his busi­ness would no longer qual­ify for the CEDB pro­gram af­ter this year spelled dis­as­ter for so­lar devel­op­ment on the Is­land.

“So­lar Is­land was the only so­lar CEDB on P.E.I.,” Howard said.

MILLICENT MCKAY/ JOUR­NAL PI­O­NEER

So­lar Is­land Elec­tric Inc. pres­i­dent Steve Howard says he was re­cently in­formed that his busi­ness would no longer qual­ify for a pro­vin­cial tax credit pro­gram.

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