After the really good year of 2010, the Canadian solar thermal industry was facing a difficult market situation in 2011. According to the annual Survey of Active Solar Thermal Collectors, Industry and Markets in Canada 2011, the total sold collector area decreased by 29%, dropping from 252,146 m² in 2010 to 179,971 m² in 2011. Air collector sales (purple line) decreased by almost two-thirds of the 2008 level. The sectors of solar swimming pool collectors (blue line) and water-based systems (red line) recorded a downward trend as well.
The survey shows a significant decline in the solar thermal market in 2011: Total revenue was at Canadian Dollar (CAD) 29.9 million, a decrease of 20% from the CAD 37.4 million reported in 2010. Revenue from domestic sales dropped by about 22%, from CAD 34.0 million to CAD 26.6 million. Export slowed down, too. Sales fell by about 3 %, from CAD 3.4 million to CAD 3.3 million. The revenue derived from all collector types decreased in 2011, with the exception of the very small segment of glazed air collectors, which grew by 86% (for more information, see the attached report).
Ontario was still the leading domestic market, although the stop of several programmes hit the province hard, decreasing regional solar collector sales by 9%, from 55% in 2010 to 46 % in 2011 (see the following chart). British Columbia experienced significant growth in market share for the second consecutive year by increasing from 16% in 2010 to 25% in 2011. The survey’s authors attribute this trend to a number of provincial programmes, which have made their funding available for solar thermal projects as well.
Annual revenue share of solar collector sales in selected Canadian provinces (BC stands for British Columbia)
The companies which participated in the survey stated the stop of the ecoENERGY for Renewable Heat programme in March 2011 as the number one reason for the decrease in domestic sales. "It doesn’t look good for the Canadian solar industry," says Christian Vachon, founder and CEO of air collector manufacturer enerconcept Technologies. "Last year, our company was able to achieve a growth rate of 20%, but the luck is changing for us, too, and our main export market, Europe, is currently slowing down."
According to the survey, the Canadian solar industry has been rather pessimistic lately: Only 37% of the companies expect a growth in sales. In contrast, 40 % of the respondents predict sales to decrease over the next two years and 23 % expect a stagnating market.
As in the last years, the survey wasn’t able to capture the entire Canadian solar thermal industry. In order to ensure continuity, current respondents were asked to report both their 2010 and 2011 revenue. This enabled a crosscheck with the responses from the previous year. Out of the 42 companies which participated in the survey (29 in 2010), 31 provided data for 2010 and 2011.