Nfld. & Labrador

Renewable energy plan too restrictive, says solar panel seller

The provincial five-megawatt cap means very few will get to access system, according to Gerry Skinner.

Gerry Skinner, who runs NewFound Energies, says 5 megawatt cap means few can access program

The cap on the net-metering program means few people in Newfoundland and Labrador will actually be able to use it, says Gerry Skinner, who runs NewFound Energies. (Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation/Facebook)

Newfoundland and Labrador is moving ahead with a plan to enable net metering on the energy grid, but a business owner says what's planned doesn't make much sense.

Earlier this month, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) approved a net-metering program, which allows consumers to use solar panels or wind to generate their own power, and feed surplus power back into the distribution system so they can access it later.

This is probably one of the only locations in the world where renewable energy is illegal.- Gerry Skinner

But Gerry Skinner, who runs NewFound Energies, a company that installs solar panels and wind turbines, says an imposed cap leaves a lot to be desired.

The total maximum of 100 kilowatts is way too low for the number of people who want to install renewable energy systems, Skinner said.

"It's gonna be over before it begins when it comes to how many people can take advantage — probably in the first day, if you don't apply the very first day there will be no more applications allowed, they'll be all used up."

Cap sets low standard

The individual cap of 100 kilowatt hours — the average homeowner uses 10-15 — under a five megawatt provincial cap is also a "major problem," he said. 

It doesn't take much to hook up a renewable energy source to a home's existing energy infrastructure, Gerry Skinner says. The problems will come in when the province sets restrictions and fees. (Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images)

"There's gonna be a portion of that going to commercial applicants and maybe a little bit of it might go to some government agencies ... so even if we ended up with two and a half megawatts it will still be one in every 1,670 homes that will qualify to install renewable energy." 

Skinner said he's been waiting for a net-metering plan for 14 years, and Newfoundland and Labrador is well behind other provinces, as well as the rest of the world.

"This is probably one of the only locations in the world where renewable energy is illegal," he told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

N.L. lagging behind elsewhere

He said there are also a lot of unanswered questions — like how much it will cost homeowners or businesses to install the technology and hook it up to the system.

"Now I'm thinking that we're gonna see fees that are gonna discourage people, so there's no incentive to do this," said Skinner.

"Every other government in the world, including the United States and Canada, you're saving money for every kilowatt hour that you produce with your own money, you're saving money for the government. And every other government in Canada and in the world knows that."

Anyone who wants to avail of the net-metering program will be able to send an application in starting July 1, 2017.

With files from the St. John's Morning Show