Saskatchewan

SaskPower customer with solar panels feels burned by meter delays

A Regina man is frustrated because the solar panels he's installed on his home should be earning him credits for his power bill, but they aren't because he's still waiting on bi-directional meters that need to be installed by SaskPower.

225 customers waiting on bi-directional meters; SaskPower blames manufacturer

Brian LeGard signed the contract to get his solar project moving back in May. He said the process went quickly, until he was told SaskPower didn't have a crucial piece of equipment. (CBC)

Brian LeGard says he's producing an excessive amount of solar power with the rooftop panels on his Regina home, but isn't getting credit in return. 

SaskPower was supposed to install a bi-directional power meter after LeGard's $25,000 system was inspected and approved in July. 

However, he's still waiting for the installation. 

"To have it sit there idle, after we've paid for it — and aren't getting credit or able to use it and maximize the efficiency and the return on this one — that's extremely frustrating," LeGard said. 

The Crown corporation has promised that those who join the Net Metering program will save money because they'll make their own power and will get credit in return when they make too much.

Bi-directional meters track how much people are generating and how much they're feeding back into the grid. However, SaskPower doesn't have any meters on hand and a shipment from the U.S.-based technology company Itron of 980 meters that was expected in July has been delayed multiple times. 

LeGard said the system is meant to balance out the bills in the wintertime, and he feels as if he's missed out on the "best months of sunshine." 

Currently, 225 participants in the net metering program are in the same situation as LeGard. 

SaskPower spokesperson Joel Cherry said the utility will "provide a calculated credit on their bill to minimize that financial impact" for customers who haven't received a meter within 30 days of an electrical inspection.

"I don't have the exact formula for how that calculation will be reached, but we will be providing that to customers."

LeGard said he's doubtful the credits will measure up. He says an app that shows how much he's exporting to the grid is currently measuring 376 kilowatts of power.

Brian LeGard said this tag was put in place after SaskPower completed its electrical inspection on his solar power setup. (CBC)

"I'm seeing all these credits that potentially should have been built up that are going nowhere." 

LeGard said he's frustrated by what he calls "weak communication" on SaskPower's part, and even contacted his MLA in search of answers. 

"It just seems like we're not being heard, and for me this is a big deal," he said. 

LeGard said he's excited about the opportunity to use an energy-conscious way to generate power, but he's equally excited about managing his power bill. 

He's concerned that experiences like this will deter people from pursuing greener alternatives, especially given that the arrival of the meters is still not guaranteed. 

Cherry said there has been a "substantial" increase in people interested in solar generation and net-metering programs.

​There were 896 new participants in the Net Metering program in the 2018-19 fiscal year, with 403 more participants joining between April and July this year. ​

Cherry said the shortage of manufacturing parts is to blame. When asked about penalties, he declined to comment on the relationship between SaskPower and Itron. Itron could not be immediately reached for comment.

"We're just focused on getting these meters in and installed as soon as we have them. We're going to expedite the installation process," Cherry said.

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