Regina City Councillor submits FOI for insight into changes to net metering program
REGINA -- Regina City Councillor Andrew Stevens is sharing the findings from an FOI (Freedom of Information Request) he submitted for data sheets, models and economic impact assessments related to the revision of Saskatchewan’s solar rebate program.
"I’m hopeful that residents and experts will be able to look at these documents and make sense of it and figure out whether the government and the SaskPower claims that this was going to leave to unsustainable escalation and cost were true,” said Stevens.
In September 2019 the province discontinued the old net metering program, which hit its 16 megawatt capacity ahead of schedule. SaskPower said it would be re-evaluating the financial sustainability of the program.
Around the time the old program was discontinued, Duncan said the old net metering program wasn't sustainable for SaskPower.
"In order to make the program sustainable in the longer term we had to look at the incentives in the program and the amount of subsidization that we were doing of the solar industry, and certainly that did result necessarily in a reduction in the total number of applications,” said Joel Cherry, with SaskPower.
The old program offered a subsidy of 20 per cent of the capital costs of the panels, up to $20,000. It also had a one-to-one ratio for any excess energy produced and returned to the grid. Customers used to receive the retail price for any excess power, currently at 14 cents per kWh.
That is reflected in the materials sent to Stevens following his request.
Data provided by the province shows the first three months of 2018 cost SaskPower $256,454 in rebates. The data shows that figured soared in the first three months of 2019, with the Crown Corporation spending over $3 million in rebates under the old net metering program.
In a section titled “Q/A on Net Metering” the Government of Saskatchewan was asked, “The solar industry in Saskatchewan said that they were going to have to lay off up to 800 employees. Is this new program going to fix that?”
The province answered “Individual companies will make choices based on their particular circumstances. We know there is a need and business for the solar industry here in Saskatchewan.”
Brenden Owens, the co-owner of Prairie Sun Solar, said the company has had to cut back even more during a typically snow winter season.
“Since the rebate program changed things obviously have been affected. We started off with eight employees at the time of the change. We are now down to two employees at this time,” said Owens.
Through nine months in 2019, Prarie Sun booked 60 solar panel installation jobs. But since the rebate program was changed, it has not booked any.
The new program eliminated the subsidy and changed how much customers will receive for excess energy.
"You're still saving 14 cents a kWh when you're not paying SaskPower," Duncan said in October 2019. "For the excess energy that you are producing, you're going to get 7.5 cents a kWh for the first two years."
According to data from SaskPower, Saskatchewan currently has 2,658 solar projects throughout the province, accounting for 35 Megawatts of power. The total number of projects went up by 863 from 2018 to 2019, down 33 from 2017 to 2018.