SaskPower to take 'weeks, not months' for new solar power plan after net metering program caps
It will take "weeks, not months" for SaskPower to come up with a new plan to address the high demand for solar power from its customers.
Last week, the Crown said its net metering program had reached the 16-megawatt capacity two years ahead of schedule.
Minister Responsible for SaskPower Dustin Duncan addressed reporters on Monday to discuss how net metering will work going forward. He said the program has seen significant year-over-year growth and that a new plan will be available soon.
"We want to give certainty to the industry that has responded in a very big way to allow customers to make their own power," he said.
Duncan said the plan needs to be sustainable for the Crown, and for customers who don’t or can't have solar energy. He added applications came in so quickly they cap was reached well ahead of schedule.
Earlier in September, the Crown predicted it would reach the 16-megawatt cap by the end of 2019. Last week, it moved that timeline up dramatically, and the cap was reached on Wednesday.
Despite not knowing what the program will look like right now, Duncan said the Crown plans to continue utilizing solar panels.
"There will be a program that will allow for rooftop solar in the province," he said.
NDP MLA Trent Wotherspoon called the solar power plan "amateur hour."
"The fact that he couldn’t reverse the damaging decision that was brought to the industry with one day's notice last week is really baffling and of course really disappointing," he told reporters after Duncan spoke. "Companies and applicants have been blindsided."
He added the Saskatchewan Party government has failed to recognize the success of the solar power program for what it is — a sustainable power source that will help reduce emissions.
The net metering program gives rebates to customers who install solar panels, and credits for any extra power sent back into the grid. Duncan said that excess power is purchased by the Crown at a premium, since it is more expensive than buying it from a solar farm.
Duncan said he wants to make sure whatever plan is put forward won't hit its cap in a matter of months.
The 16-megawatt cap was agreed on by SaskPower and cabinet before the program launched.
"In fairness, cabinet would have had some problems if SaskPower hadn’t abided by that cap," Duncan said.
Since the Crown hit the cap so far ahead of schedule, Duncan said there wasn’t time to put a transitional plan into place.
SaskPower and the government will be looking at the financial sustainability of solar panels on homes, along with making sure there is power available when it is needed. The net metering system offers a rebate to solar users up to $20,000.
Solar and wind are also intermittent power sources, Duncan said, so it's necessary to make sure power is available whenever customers need it.
Duncan expects a new plan to be available in the coming weeks.