Solar and Storage Program Design Consultant
The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) is seeking a qualified consultant to help design a turnkey local solar and storage program in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Through this program, TAF aims to catalyze adoption of distributed electricity generation at scale by prioritizing the customer experience.
1.1 Background Information
The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) is a regional climate agency that collaborates with stakeholders in the private, public, and non-profit sectors across the GTHA. Since 1991, TAF has been focused on supporting and implementing concepts that reduce carbon emissions as well as improve people’s health, create new green jobs, boost urban resiliency, and contribute to a fair society. TAF is focused on enabling the acceleration and scale-up of low-carbon solutions with the goal of making the GTHA net-zero by 2050.
Clean, reliable, and affordable electricity underpins the decarbonization pathway for almost every major source of emissions in the GTHA. Ontario’s electricity system stands at a pivotal moment with a projected 82% demand increase by 2040, driven by the electrification of home heating and transportation. This surge calls for a visionary and sustainable path to meet residents’ and businesses’ needs and climate goals. Despite Canada’s commitment to a net-zero grid by 2035 through its draft Clean Energy Regulations (CER), the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) is forecasting a significant increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the grid – from 5.4 MT in 2021 to 19.4 MT in 2040. The current plan relies on adding new gas-fired capacity and expanding utilization of existing capacity, in large part due to a lack of other generation to meet energy adequacy needs.
This challenge presents a transformative opportunity for Distributed Energy Resources (DERs), including local solar and storage. Research commissioned by TAF outlines several alternative scenarios to Ontario’s current path, highlighting the role that distributed solar generation can play in achieving both short- and long-term emissions reductions. The success of solar adoption in jurisdictions with a similar climate, such as New York, underscores its potential in Ontario. However, several barriers need addressing, including:
- Regulatory hurdles — traditional practices and regulations have restricted Local Distribution Companies (LDCs) from fully unlocking customer generation, even with evolving net-metering rules.
- Low awareness of the business case — the region has abundant solar potential, and technology costs have consistently fallen. Yet, residential and business stakeholders still need to internalize the value proposition necessary for this opportunity to scale.
- Lack of specialized financing — while capital markets have rallied behind utility-scale solar projects, there are no dedicated offerings for smaller and disaggregated rooftop installations in Ontario.
- A coordinated, installation-oriented vision – solutions to all these barriers need to be embedded within a holistic approach informed by system-wide capacity targets, with a focus on customer success, to catalyze uptake at scale.
Ontario, and most of Canada, has seen only nominal uptake of distributed solar in recent years. The province has an estimated 310 MW of behind-the-meter (BTM) installed solar capacity currently, most of which was initiated a decade ago through the now-defunct microFIT program. There exists significant potential for new solar capacity to contribute to provincial energy needs and displace gas-fired generation on a near one-to-one basis. The scale of BTM solar adoption required to support economy-wide decarbonization, however, requires market transformation in the form of sustained financial supports and streamlined regulatory processes.
There exists a clear need for a coordinated, streamlined approach that prioritizes the customer experience and makes it simple for residents and businesses to generate their own electricity. Through its turnkey solar and storage program, TAF aims to address existing barriers to adoption, working in coordination with local utilities, municipalities, and other stakeholders, to de-risk and demonstrate a pathway to scale. The program would be designed to offer a streamlined service for residents and businesses alike. This service is further made efficient by aggregating multiple components, including installer selection, project design and installation, access to and aggregation of financial supports and financing, interconnection and approval processes, and long-term maintenance and removal/replacement. There are several programs across North America with similar goals that the GTHA can look to for inspiration, including NY-Sun, Solarize Virginia, Solar Switch, Solar Over Louisville, and Grid Alternatives.
TAF is also interested in addressing the barriers to participation faced by low- and middle-income residents, for whom access to the upfront capital required to finance solar and/or storage projects is a significant challenge. This work should consider avenues through which participation in local generation can be expanded to all. The selected consultant will support the development of financing solutions that address two specific use cases:
- Small-sized installations for low- and middle-income residents; and
- Medium-sized installations for commercial and institutional organizations
Solar would be the workhorse of the program, as it is already economically viable through energy cost reductions via net metering. Storage would be offered as a complementary resource to solar, prioritized in accordance with the development of DER incentive frameworks and LDC engagement over the next year. TAF will also leverage learnings from the development and launch of this program to advocate for policy and process reform and foster a local ecosystem that encourages DER adoption.
A critical component of this program offering will be ensuring that potential customers gain access to trusted installers, supplemented by a transparent and easy-to-understand process and associated benefits and costs. Part of this work will involve an assessment of the various options for securing or screening (depending on the defined program structure) trusted engineering, procurement & construction companies (EPCs), developers, and/or installers, including the strategy (e.g. competitive procurement) for retaining and/or managing that/those organization(s).
The structure of this program offering, to be defined through this scope of work, needs to consider the local regulatory context and complement efforts already underway by GTHA municipalities (e.g. SolarTO) and other organizations in the GTHA. The outcomes of this work should also consider the differences in knowledge and capacity within individual jurisdictions across the region.
2.0 Scope of Work
Working with TAF staff, the selected consultant will help design a turnkey solar and storage program that can be delivered locally by TAF, in coordination with relevant local partners. The goal of this program is to demonstrate what is possible in the GTHA (and in Ontario) with a coordinated, streamlined approach that prioritizes the user experience throughout the entire process, from initial inquiry to project installation to removal or replacement.
The deliverables outlined below include a series of concise briefing notes, intended to be used as working documents to receive feedback from TAF staff and achieve consensus on a path forward. These briefing notes are not intended to be formal reports and should be scoped accordingly. This work will serve as the basis for a final report that TAF will leverage to implement and launch a turnkey solar and storage program in 2024.
The final report must address four interrelated objectives, namely:
- A landscape analysis of the existing local solar and storage ecosystem in the GTHA (Objective 1);
- Project financing option(s) that take into consideration client needs, potential financing structures, and institutions (Objective 2);
- The design for a local, turnkey solar and storage program that takes into consideration regulatory, technology, financial, and other relevant factors (Objective 3); and
- A resourcing and procurement plan for launching and operating the program (Objective 4).
Proponents should integrate meetings with TAF staff and feedback cycles as part of their proposed Work Plan (see below), which will be included as deliverables within the final Scope of Work under the signed agreement with the selected consultant.
Objective 1: Review the existing local solar and storage ecosystem.
The selected consultant will review the current solar and storage ecosystem in the GTHA, including a review of active stakeholders, existing interconnection and permitting processes, and available financial supports. This should be complemented with a scan of programs in other jurisdictions in which solar adoption has been successful, with a focus on those that have prioritized the user experience and with models (e.g. outreach, installation, financing, etc.) that could be transferred over to the Ontario context. This work would include:
- Landscape analysis – A review of the local distributed solar and storage ecosystem in the GTHA, including what various organizations are already doing in this space and in which municipalities, and the regulatory environment(s) and processes associated with the development of these projects.
- Existing financial supports – A review and assessment of all available financial supports for small- and medium-scale solar and storage, including timelines, barriers, and potential for aggregation.
- Review of best practices – A concise summary of model programs and/or practices from jurisdictions outside of Ontario, including the uptake of solar driven by these programs relative to targets.
- Target market and customer profiles – Definition of the target market this program aims to reach and profiles of representative customers that the program aims to reach, to uncover existing and potential pain points and inform program design work.
- A kickoff meeting to align on the project objectives, schedule, and deliverables, communication protocols, and next steps.
- A briefing note consisting of a landscape analysis of distributed solar and/or storage in the GTHA, including what other organizations are doing in this space, existing financial supports, and the regulatory environment in which these projects are developed. This should include profiles of the customers that TAF aspires to reach through this program.
- Distribute draft briefing note and integrate verbal and/or written feedback from TAF.
- The final report should include sections or subsections summarizing the following:
- An overview of the existing solar and storage landscape in the GTHA;
- Available financial supports for small- and medium-scale solar and storage, including timelines, barriers, and potential for aggregation;
- A summary of best practices from other jurisdiction; and
- Profiles of representative customers within the GTHA target market.
Objective 2: Define options for potential financing strategies and/or structures
TAF’s research has suggested that one of the main barriers to adoption of solar and/or storage in the GTHA is the lack of fit-for-purpose financing options in the region, unlike other jurisdictions with mature offerings. While all three levels of government offer a range of incentives, loans, and/or tax credits, accessing these supports remains a challenge for many residents and businesses. In addition, many projects still require upfront capital despite the availability of zero- or low-interest loans, a significant barrier to adoption for low- and middle-income residents.
TAF would like to explore the potential of aggregating available incentives, loans, and tax credits, and supplementing those supports with additional financing where needed, to provide a streamlined financial offering that ensures distributed solar is available to all homeowners and businesses. For example, Ontario has opened the door to third-party ownership of rooftop solar, an option which could be leveraged to create user-friendly financial offerings. While storage should be explored as an optional add-on, the core of the program would be centred on an offering focused on solar. This work would include:
- Financing Options – A scan and assessment of potential financing options for developing small- and medium-size solar and/or storage projects that would underpin a streamlined financial offering to residents and businesses, including the pros and cons associated with each option.
- Recommended Approach for Financing – Recommendation(s) for a financing approach for both small- and medium-sized projects, informed by financial modelling over the expected lifetime of the projects, and an estimate of the potential financial gaps that need be addressed in the short (prior to 2027) and medium (2027 to 2030) term.
- Integration of Financing within Program – Integration of the selected financing approach within the design of the overall program (as part of Objective 3 below).
This work should consider a range of financing structures for solar and/or storage, leveraging available financial supports, inclusive of outright purchase and third-party ownership (e.g. lease-to-own, power purchase agreements, etc.). This could also include options that address specific challenges with existing government support, such as bridge financing between expenditures related to project installation and the receipt of government funding backed by zero- or low-interest loans.
- A briefing note outlining potential financing options, including consideration of available incentives, loans, and tax credits, and the pros and cons associated with each option. Distribute draft briefing note and integrate verbal and/or written feedback from TAF.
- The final report should include sections or subsections summarizing the following:
- Options for financing strategies and/or structures that would underpin a streamlined financial offering to residents and businesses.
- Financial models (to also be provided as separate Excel files) for the installation of standalone solar and solar and/or storage for the two use cases (small- and medium-sized solar) outlined above, including a summary of the potential financing gaps that need to be addressed.
Objective 3: Design a local turnkey solar and storage program for the GTHA
TAF intends to launch, in partnership with strategic partners, a turnkey solar and storage program for residents and business in the GTHA in 2024. Informed by the analysis and financing approach completed under Objectives 1 and 2, the selected consultant will work with TAF to design this program, with an explicit focus on making it as easy as possible for potential customers to install solar on their rooftops and generate their own electricity. The goal of this program is to demonstrate what is possible in the GTHA (and in Ontario) with a coordinated, streamlined approach that prioritizes the user experience throughout the process.
The final program design should be explicit in the division of roles and responsibilities between stakeholders, which could include TAF staff, local municipalities and utilities, engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) firms and installers, financial institutions, residents, businesses, and other organizations or consultants where needed. This work should be informed through engagement with and knowledge of the local regulatory and developer ecosystem in the GTHA, including LDCs, municipalities, provincial regulators (e.g. IESO, OEB), and solar and storage EPCs and installers. TAF’s role in delivering this program must consider the organization’s capacities and specific expertise.
The selected consultant will help define the scope of the program offering, detail the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders involved in the program, and help develop and finalize the structure of the program, in consultation with TAF staff. This work would include:
- Program structure options – A summary of potential options for a turnkey program, including high-level costing and resourcing (see Objective 4), informed by the landscape analysis in the GTHA and best practices from other jurisdictions (see Objective 1).
- Program design – A design for a turnkey program based on the above, including the scope of services provided to residents and businesses, the division of roles and responsibilities between relevant stakeholders, and the associated process flows and timelines.
- Program interest and projections – An assessment of the likely level of applicant interest in a turnkey program offering, and projections of achievable capacity targets by the end of 2026.
- A briefing note summarizing options for potential program structures for a turnkey solar and storage program in the GTHA, including the scope of services provided to residents and businesses, associated high-level costing and resourcing needs (see Objective 4), and the division of roles and responsibilities.
- The final report should include sections or subsections summarizing the following:
- An assessment of the likely level of applicant interest in a turnkey program offering, and projections of achievable capacity targets out to 2026; and
- The final design for a turnkey solar and storage program, including the associated process flows and timelines.
Objective 4: Establish an implementation plan (capacity, procurements, etc.) for the launch and operation of the program
Based on the outcomes of the work under Objectives 2 and 3, and with input from TAF staff, the selected consultant will build a workplan for the launch and operation of a turnkey solar and storage program. This should include internal resources (staffing, IT, equipment, etc.), third-party services, financing, and contingency planning to ensure the continued availability of required internal and external resources needed for the program.
To inform the final program design developed under Objective 3, it is expected that the selected consultant would develop high-level costing and resourcing needs for potential options as an initial step. This work would serve as inputs to deliverables under Objective 3. Once the program design has been finalized, the selected consultant would proceed to develop a more detailed workplan, with associated costing and resourcing needs, and a proposed strategy for securing and/or screening project developers and/or installers.
- The final report should include sections or subsections summarizing the following:
- Projections of and considerations associated with overall resourcing needs to launch and support the program, including required skill sets, internal and external resources, and overall program costs, including short- and medium-term needs.
- A procurement strategy to secure and/or screen reliable and cost-competitive engineering, procurement & construction companies (EPCs), developers, and/or installers, as determined by the overall program design.
3.0 Proposal Evaluation and Selection Process
3.1 Selection Committee
All Proposals will be evaluated through a comprehensive review and analysis by a Selection Committee, which will include members from TAF.
The Selection Committee may at its sole discretion retain additional committee members or advisors.
The aim of the Selection Committee will be to select one (1) Proposal which in its opinion meet(s) TAF’s requirements under this RFP and provide(s) the best overall value to TAF. The Proposal selected, if any, will not necessarily be the one offering the lowest fees or cost. Pricing is only one of the components that will be used to determine the best overall value for TAF.
3.2 Selection Criteria
A) Understanding of the RFP and Proposed Solution
Understanding of the assignment
The extent to which the proposed plan will achieve TAF’s objectives
B) Experience and Qualifications of the Proponent
Relevance of skills and experience of team members to the tasks and deliverables
C) Knowledge of the Subject Matter
Familiarity with key opportunities and barriers related to:
D) Core Pricing
3.3 Selection Process
The Selection Committee will score the Proposals using the evaluation table in Appendix A. If the submission fails any mandatory requirements, the Proposal will be rejected.
3.4 Schedule of Events
RFP issue date
Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Deadline for questions
Tuesday, January 16, 2023
Thursday, February 1, 2024, at 5 p.m.
Date evaluation expected to be complete
Thursday, February 8, 2024
Expected approval and award date
Thursday, February 15, 2024
Expected contract start date
Monday, February 19, 2024
Expected contract end date
Friday, June 28, 2024 (updated)
As part of the evaluation process, the Selection Committee may make requests for further information with respect to the content of any Proposal in order to clarify its understanding of the Proponent’s response. The clarification process shall not be used to obtain required information that was not submitted at time of close or to promote a particular Proponent. The Selection Committee may request further information from one or more Proponents and not from others.
A Proponent whose written Proposal has met or exceeded the minimum score for the technical portion of the Proposal or has received a high ranking may be invited to an interview with the Selection Committee, the results of which will be used by the Selection Committee as a mechanism to revisit, revise, confirm, and finalize the score and select the recommended Proponent(s). TAF reserves the right to interview up to a maximum of three (3) top ranked Proponents. The Selection Committee may interview any Proponent(s) without interviewing others, and TAF will be under no obligation to advise those not receiving an invitation until completion of the evaluation and selection process.
3.7 Negotiations and Agreement
The award of any Agreement will be at the absolute discretion of TAF. The selection of a recommended Proponent will not oblige TAF to negotiate or execute an Agreement with that recommended Proponent.
Any award of an Agreement resulting from this RFP will be in accordance with the bylaws, policies, and procedures of TAF.
TAF shall have the right to negotiate on such matter(s) as it chooses with the recommended Proponent without obligation to communicate, negotiate, or review similar modifications with other Proponents. TAF shall incur no liability to any other Proponent as a result of such negotiation or alternative arrangements.
During negotiations, the scope of the services may be refined, issues may be prioritized, responsibilities among the Proponent, all staff, and sub-consultants provided by it and TAF may be settled and the issues concerning implementation may be clarified.
Any Agreement must contain terms and conditions in the interests of TAF and be in a form satisfactory to TAF’s Solicitor.
If any Agreement cannot be negotiated within thirty (30) to ninety (90) business days of notification to the recommended Proponent, TAF may, at its sole discretion, terminate negotiations with that Proponent and negotiate an Agreement with another Proponent or abort the RFP process and not enter into any Agreement with any of the Proponents.
4.0 Proposal Submission Requirements
4.1 Proposal Documentation and Delivery
Submit proposals (due Thursday, February 1, 2024 at 5:00 p.m. EST) to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Solar and Storage Program Design Consultant.
4.2 Proposal Content
Responses should be limited to six pages, not including proponent CVs. Please assemble your proposal documents as a single PDF for submission, organized in the following subsections:
Section 1 – Executive Summary
A summary of the key features of your proposal with rationale for the approach.
Section 2 – Proposed Staff Team and Resources
This work will need to be undertaken by an individual or team who can demonstrate specific knowledge of and experience in performing similar work on projects of comparable nature, size, and scope. The proponent should provide the following:
- A list of key staff that the Proponent proposes to use for this work, highlighting the professional qualifications, related project experience, and the intended role and responsibilities for each team member. This should include, at minimum, the Project Manager intended to be the lead and primary point of contact for this work.
- Strategies for fulfilling the roles and responsibilities for any unforeseen events requiring replacement of team members, including any named individuals where possible.
- CVs for key staff listed in subsections 2.1 and 2.2, to be included in an Appendix to this proposal (and not counted towards the above page limit).
- A statement of any conflict of interest, if applicable.
- A total of three references for similar work.
Section 3 – Work Plan and Deliverables
The proposal must include realistic timelines that ensure the work is completed in an efficient and effective manner. The Proponent is requested to provide:
- A summary of the overall approach, including the Proponent’s perspective on developing a program based on user–centred design principles.
- A detailed work plan including the proposed approach to completing each Objective, and the associated schedule, tasks, and deliverables.
- For each Objective, the member(s) of the Proponent’s team that will be completing the work, including an assigned lead.
- An estimated overall timeline for completion of the project, including an indication of how soon you could commence work.
- Assumptions regarding roles and involvement of TAF staff, including estimated amounts of their time involvement and meetings to discuss, review, and advance project work.
Section 4 – Cost of Services
The Proponent must complete and submit the Price Detail Form located in Appendix B.
The total price quoted must include all labour, profit, other overhead, materials, equipment, licences, analysis, travel, accommodations, communication, transportation and delivery costs (courier, long distance charges, etc.), staff time, meetings with TAF staff or other stakeholders (as required), and any/all other operational costs and fees associated with the Services, excluding all applicable taxes.
5.0 Accessibility & Inclusion
We strive to build a team and supplier network that reflects the community we work in, and encourage proposals from traditionally underrepresented groups such as women, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, people identifying as 2SLGBTQ+, people with disabilities, and others with the skills and knowledge to productively engage with diverse communities. If we can make this request for proposals easier through any accommodations in the process, please let us know by emailing Jaime Klein, People and Operations Manager, at email@example.com.
6.0 Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest Agreements
The successful vendor will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement and Conflict of Interest Declaration.
Appendix A – Proposal Evaluation Table [download in Word]
Appendix B – Price Detail Form [download in Word]
Appendix C – Proponent Question and Responses [download in PDF]
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Solar and Storage Program Design Consultant by January 16, 2024. We will post responses to all questions here by January 23, 2024.
Page last updated: January 22, 2023 — page updated to reflect that contract end date is Friday, June 28, 2024.