A decision by the Ontario Power Authority to change the rules surrounding solar power production is not sitting well with a Progressive Conservative member of the legislature.

During the Canada Day weekend, the authority quietly announced the rate being paid to some producers would be slashed to 58 cents from 80 cents per kilowatt hour.

Bill Murdoch, who represents Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, says many farmers who have invested in solar technology are going to be hurt by the reduction.

But Energy Minister Brad Duguid points out that those who already have contracts will continue to get the 80-cent rate.

Duguid says the new rate applies only to new ground-mounted systems, and those planning roof-mounted installations will still get 80 cents per kilowatt hour.

Duguid says the program would have become unsustainable if the original price structure had been maintained.

Due to the lower installation cost of ground-mounted systems, Duguid said profit margins under the 80-cent payment were in the 25 to 30 per cent range.

“A profit margin in the 10 to 11 per cent range ... is what the program was based on,” he said.

Duguid said he doesn’t anticipate the lower rate will discourage applications to the program.

“The rate of return is actually very generous even under the new proposed tariff.”

Murdoch said the rate reduction proves the Liberal government does not care about rural Ontario.

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