Replacement net metering program coming 'within weeks,' Dustin Duncan says

There will be another net metering program in place for SaskPower customers  "within weeks, not months" to replace the successful one that shut down last week.

SaskPower announced last week its net-metering program had reached capacity, 2 years ahead of schedule

Dustin Duncan, minister responsible for SaskPower, said on Monday he is hopeful an alternative solar program will be in place by the end of October. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

There will be another net metering program in place for SaskPower customers  "within weeks, not months" to replace the successful one that shut down last week, the minister responsible for SaskPower says.

Dustin Duncan said the Crown corporation's net metering program was tweaked when it was renewed last November with popular enhancements such as upping the rebate, extending banking of credits and lengthening contracts to 10 years instead of two.

"If you look at the numbers, year-over-year increases, we have done [more] over the last ten months in terms of applications than would have taken a number of years, essentially, under the same program," Duncan said on Monday.

The program allowed SaskPower customers who were connected to the provincial grid to generate their own electricity through solar panels, feed it into the grid and get credit for any excess they generated.

The program was slated to run until 2021 or until it hit a 16-megawatt cap of generated power. The cap was hit first.

Duncan said he is not prepared to wait six or seven months for SaskPower to make a decision on a new program. 

New program next month?

Duncan said it's his hope the new program will be ready to go by the end of October.

"If we ever got into a [new] program where, six months in, we're meeting the cap — we better know about that a lot sooner than a week in advance," Duncan said.

Last Thursday, SaskPower announced it was at capacity. The Crown utility says there was an unexpectedly high uptake from customers.

Duncan said SaskPower hasn't given him options for program alternatives yet but that there would be a rooftop solar program for people who want to bank credits on the province's grid.

NDP blasts government

Trent Wotherspoon, the NDP critic for economy and jobs, blasted the government for not being able to reverse the program's shutdown.

"It's amateur hour in the legislature on this file. Clear incompetence from [Minister Duncan]," Wotherspoon said.

He said the closure of the program has put at risk the "burgeoning" solar industry in Sask., which has added hundreds of jobs and cultivated skilled labour.

"Clearly, what we're hearing from those that know this industry is that this decision needs to be reversed," Wotherspoon added, saying he had spoken with homeowners, farmers and businesses involved with solar power.

Duncan said the agreement SaskPower and cabinet struck up was only for 16 megawatts, and potential problems could have arisen if it had continued past the cap.

Premier Scott Moe has also weighed into the controversy with a tweet suggesting the net-metering program isn't dead yet.

"The success of [Saskatchewan's] net metering program indicates the potential of solar power and demonstrates that our solar industry has the capacity to address customer demand," Moe said. "A new sustainable program that provides continued opportunity for [Saskatchewan] to access solar options will be available soon."

With files from Emily Pasiuk


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