Opposition wants to see more incentives for solar energy on P.E.I.

The Official Opposition is asking the province why it hasn't provided incentives for Islanders to invest in solar energy.

A new report from the National Energy Board says P.E.I. would save money with solar panels

The National Energy Board says P.E.I. is a prime location for solar technology because of its high electricity prices. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

The Official Opposition is asking the province why it hasn't provided incentives for Islanders to invest in solar energy.

A recent report from the National Energy Board said that while P.E.I. doesn't receive as much sunlight as other parts of the country, it has "largely competitive solar break-even prices."

That's because the Island's electricity prices are relatively high.

"Solar has come of age. It's time to install it, to embrace it, to look at distributed local energy production," said Progressive Conservative MLA Brad Trivers in the legislature Friday.

It really will pay off in spades down the road.— Brad Trivers

Trivers said the report prompted him to ask the province why it hasn't offered financial incentives for Islanders and businesses to invest in solar power.

"Right now there are no incentives that support the installation of solar panels at all." 

Solar energy is currently taxed

Most homeowners who install solar electric panels join the province's net metering program.

The province says its supported solar energy projects in Summerside and Montague but is currently focusing on other renewable energy initiatives. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Under that program, they feed excess energy into the provincial grid when their panels produce more than their home is using. In exchange, they receive credits to draw electricity back out of the grid when the sun isn't shining.

But under P.E.I.'s program, homeowners have to claim the electricity they generate as income, and they're also charged HST on the electricity they draw back out of the system, even if they've earned enough credits that they don't pay for the electricity itself.

Trivers argues that Islanders who use solar panels to produce energy shouldn't be charged tax

"That would be an easy, a very easy way for the government to help incentivize people who have taken that step," he said.

Solar costs 'quite prohibitive'

The province is currently focusing on other energy incentives like rebates on heat pumps, said Energy Minister Paula Biggar.

She said the province has supported solar energy systems at Credit Union Place in Summerside and at the Cavendish Farms Wellness Centre in Montague, but home-to-home investments is a more complicated subject.

"The general population can't afford to install a whole solar system because of the cost," Biggar said. 

"The upfront costs on that are quite prohibitive."

'Cost of maintaining'

The Minister said investments in solar panels eventually pay for themselves and said she would look at rebate programs for solar technology in the future, but right now is focusing on reducing the costs of home heating. 

She said if more people were investing in solar energy, the province would need to take a look at its grid system. 

"Even if you're totally sufficient from solar power, unless you're going to disconnect from the grid there's still a cost of maintaining, so that you can switch your switch on when you maybe don't have enough solar power," Biggar said.

"That cost cannot be borne by the rest of Prince Edward Islanders."

But Trivers said he wants to see the province do some long-term planning that would help Islanders save more money in the future.

"If you look at things in the long term, you can invest some capital upfront, but it really will pay off in spades down the road," he said.

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