“Net Metering (or net energy metering) allows consumers who generate some or all of their own electricity to use that electricity anytime, instead of when it is generated…”
A month or so ago I switched on the TV in my hotel room in Prince George to see a news headline reading; “BC Hydro cancels Solar Incentive Program”. I poured myself a glass of wine and proceeded to listen to the Global BC News anchor report on anything but a solar incentive program. As the owner of a solar design and installation company, I could only wish there were Government subsidies for the solar services we provide.
Global News was not alone in their mis-reporting of BC Hydro’s proposed changes to their “Net Metering” program. Similar headlines were printed in newspapers and online publications. Many people were left thinking that net metering was no longer available. These headlines definitely caught people’s attention but did absolutely nothing to help propel BC’s distributed renewable energy industry, despite already trailing miles behind our oil rich neighbors’ directly East.
So, what is the real news and what is the fake news? To understand, let’s first define the topic at hand – Net Metering:
Here’s how BC Hydro describes their process of Net Metering:
“Our net metering program is designed for those who generate electricity for their own use. When you generate more than you need, you sell it to us. When you don't generate enough to meet your needs, you buy it from us. When you sell to us, you get a bill credit towards your future electricity use. If you still have an excess credit at your anniversary date of joining the program, we'll pay you for the electricity at the rate of 9.99 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). It's that simple.”
Here’s a depiction of how Net Metering works:
So, what is changing?
Well nothing if you’re looking to complete a project that meets the definition above. Under the proposed changes BC Hydro has submitted to the British Columbia Utility Commission (BCUC), customers must have an annual load that meets or exceed the generating facilities (solar systems) annual output.
This makes sense, as we are talking about a “Net Metering” program. Generating facilities that exceed the customers annual load are considered instead “small power producers”. In recent year project costs have plummeted and demand for net metering has skyrocketed:
BC Hydro Net Metering Program -Total Number of Customers and Capacity Size Achieved Chart - Since Program Inception to March 2018
The program launched in 2003 left BC Hydro with the inability to reject small power producing projects from qualifying under the net metering program.
In the past year, our staff have completed almost 500 custom proposals for residential homes across BC. When possible, we compare the amount of solar production our client can anticipate over 1 year, versus their electricity use over the preceding 12-month time period. Of those 500 proposals, roughly 4% have an estimated annual solar production exceeding the customers annual electricity use. Most solar projects are limited to available (and ideal) roof space.
See below: 9.6 KW Solar Panel System installed May 2018 in Port Alberni, BC
The long and short
The proposed changes to the Net Metering Program likely have very little to no impact on the ease of incorporating solar into your home or business. As long as you aren’t looking to abuse the program, any reputable solar contractor should be able to assist you in meeting eligibility requirements, by designing an appropriate system for your specific needs.