B.C. solar industry looks on the bright side after regulatory changes

B.C.'s solar industry is looking on the bright side despite recent regulatory changes designed to scale back growing surpluses of consumer-produced power. 

In April, BC Hydro announced changes to net metering, stating some customers were generating up to 50 times more power than they needed, which was never the intended purpose of the program. Customers are paid up to 10 cents a kilowatt hour for unused electricity that's fed into the grid, with some payments reaching up to $60,000, according to reports. 

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Up and downs are nothing new for the solar industry, says Ed Knaggs, vice-president of Victoria-based Home Energy Solutions. If anything, BC Hydro's changes strengthen the incentive for individual installations, he said.

“All it does is ensure that the amount of solar that you put onto your residential building is matched to how much you consume,” Knaggs said, noting it’s large co-operative solar installations that have been put at a disadvantage. 

“It would be nice, since that avenue’s been closed under the net metering program, that BC Hydro looks at a separate program for community solar systems."

Greg Dueck, a solar consultant with Peace Energy Cooperative in Dawson Creek, said net zero usage is still the name of the game, and that BC Hydro’s changes don’t affect a consumer's ability to generate their own power.

The co-operative recently installed a 500-kilowatt municipal solar power system in Hudson's Hope. In the Peace Region, focus has switched to residential and commercial installations, Dueck said.

“What we design for is to displace the power that you would normally use in a year,” said Dueck.

“We’re looking at smaller systems. Business has a good opportunity for solar to be financially viable. There’s a lot of public relations value for solar, it sets them apart from their competitors.”

While there are no new municipal projects like Hudson's Hope's currently planned, Dueck says local businesses are interested in taking advantage of the Canada Revenue Agency's capital cost allowance of fifty percent for solar systems. 

Tom Summer is a Hudson’s Hope correspondent for the Alaska Highway News. Email your news tips to thomas.a.summer@gmail.com.

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