Solar surprise

The Ritcey Report

April 12, 2018

We’re all aware of the increasingly strident warnings about shrinking energy resources and increasing environmental problems. And, perhaps, in your effort to become a better custodian of energy, you’ve installed solar panels on your roof.

You’re also being careful to turn off your lights and appliances when you leave for work each morning. While you’re away, your house is generating energy but you’re not using it. Meanwhile at night, when you have the lights and TV blaring, your solar system is sitting idle.

A banked energy credit

You could buy an expensive battery to store the extra energy you generate during the day, but there’s another option that allows you to send your extra power to the grid in exchange for a banked energy credit that you can use when you need it.

On an individual basis, it’s called net metering.

On a group or neighbourhood basis, it’s called virtual net metering (or shared renewable metering) which allows utility customers to share the electricity output from a single power project, typically in proportion to their ownership of the shared system.

Trading power with your utility grid

Both kinds of metering represent mechanisms for homeowners, families, farmers, and business people to generate their own renewable electricity from sources like solar – wind and water count, too – and to trade the power back and forth with the utility grid.

The good news is that our provincial neighbours in New Brunswick are sensitive to the related issues of:

Saving money on our energy consumption.

Being environmentally responsible.

The even better news is that their principal provincial utility company, NB Power, is prepared to help achieve both goals. It’s called the NB Power Net Metering program and, according to them, the program:

‘Provides customers with the option to connect their own environmentally sustainable generation unit to NB Power’s distribution system. The program allows customers to generate their own electricity to offset their consumption, while remaining connected to NB Power’s distribution system – so they can meet their electricity demands when their generation unit cannot.’

Conclusion

According to Sunmetrix, a builder and installer of solar panels, rooftop solar energy in New Brunswick is still fairly uncommon. However, given the falling cost of solar installations and the fact that the province has set a goal of 40 per cent renewable energy generation by 2020, that number should rise significantly in the coming years.

Currently, New Brunswick has one financial incentive program and one regulatory program supporting the adoption of solar energy. Although the cost of solar power in the province didn’t reach grid parity yet, these programs can significantly increase the affordability of solar energy.

Here in Nova Scotia there is plenty of activity on this front as well. The issue is well worth exploring, if you have not done so already.

Dave Ritcey, The Ritcey Team, Scotia Wealth Management