P.E.I. would block any plan to charge solar customers more, minister says
‘In good faith we told people this is the deal when they put roof-top solar on’
Aaron Hansen of Stratford, P.E.I., has been watching what is happening with a new change proposed for solar customers in Nova Scotia.
Hansen installed a 15 kilowatt rooftop solar system a little more than a year ago.
His $315 monthly electricity bill has been replaced by a $242 payment for his solar panels.
But he said he has no regrets. He said he'll see the real benefits when the panels are paid off in 10 years, as long as the deal with Maritime Electric doesn't change.
"I hope it does not happen here," said Hansen.
"With governments pushing toward net-zero they should not be putting up any barriers whatsoever to [disincentivize] people to put up solar."
Nova Scotia Power had applied for a new "system access charge" of $8 per kilowatt monthly on net-metered installations.
That would mean a customer with a 10-kilowatt solar system, which generates about $1,800 of electricity a year, would have to pay Nova Scotia Power back $960.
On Wednesday, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said his government would pass laws to prevent the Nova Scotia utility from putting the new charge in place, prompting the company to announce it would withdraw the proposed charge from its current rate application.
We don't have any immediate plans to make any changes.— Kim Griffin, Maritime Electric
P.E.I. Energy Minister Steven Myers said he has not been given any indication Maritime Electric is looking for a similar rate change, but he said if they put one forward he will block it.
More than 2,000 roof-top solar systems have been approved on the Island, with about half of them already up and running.
"We were encouraging people to do it and we want to continue to encourage people to do it but I've had a lot of people reach out to me since this Nova Scotia situation has started, worrying that it's going to happen here," said Myers.
"We would probably do the same as the government of Nova Scotia did, where we would move to block it. In good faith we told people this is the deal when they put roof-top solar on, that we had a net-metering program. Anybody who has it, we will stand by that commitment."
No immediate plans for change
Kim Griffin, a spokesperson with Maritime Electric, said she doesn't have a lot of details about the Nova Scotia Power proposal but at this point the P.E.I.-based, privately-owned utility is not considering changes for its solar customers.
Griffin said what is not known is how many more Islanders will sign up for solar.
"You know if we're in a situation where more and more people are doing it, that's certainly the opportunity to not only need to consult with our customers but also to look at infrastructure changes that we'd need to make across the Island to support that," said Griffin.
"Is it something that we look at? Is it something that is a consideration? It is. But there is also a lot of other things that are a consideration and we wouldn't be a good utility if we weren't looking at that. But we don't have any immediate plans to make any changes."
In a pending application for a general rate increase with the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission, Maritime Electric argued increased uptake in solar will lead to higher rates for everyone, because it says net metering customers don't pay for all of the fixed costs associated with providing their service.
The utility said it may propose a new rate structure for solar customers in the future.
"The company will continue to monitor the number of solar installations added to the system each year and will consider the resulting implications in future rate design applications," Maritime Electric said in its application.
Myers said the province wants to continue to expand its green energy initiatives, and is already looking at home storage of energy, microgrids and smart meters. He said the province is prepared to make its own investment in smart meters to "help alleviate some of the situations that arise with people producing their own renewable energy."
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