New SaskPower solar customers face delays in earning bill credits

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WATCH: SaskPower customers with newly installed solar panels are facing a backlog in trying to access power production credits for their electricity bills. David Baxter has the details. – Sep 3, 2019

Brian LeGard has been producing more power than he uses since late July following the installation of solar panels on his Regina home.

“It’s not a cheap investment, but it feels good. It feels like the right thing to do,” he said.

While it’s an expensive upfront cost, about $25,000 for his particular set up, he’s looking forward to saving money through SaskPower’s net metering program.

LeGard is still waiting for a bi-directional power meter to be installed so he can actually take part in the program, however. He was told there may be a delay, but an installation appointment was booked for Aug. 8, which didn’t happen.

“That’s just been a weekly exercise in frustration with no response. They have no idea where the meters are, they don’t know when they’re coming, and there’s just been zero communication,” LeGard said.

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READ MORE: SaskPower announces changes for customers generating their own power

The bi-directional meter tracks how much power a solar customer produces and how much they use. Excess power earns the property owner credits for their bills, lowering electricity costs when there’s less sunlight.

SaskPower spokesperson Joel Cherry said its meter supplier notified them of a looming shortage in late July, right around the time LeGard’s panels were installed.

“It was caused by a component shortage on the manufacturer’s part. At this point, they’ve committed to getting the meters to us fairly soon, probably in the next couple of weeks,” Cherry explained.

Cherry added that once they begin receiving meters they will expedite the installation process to handle the backlog.

Between April 1 and July 31, SaskPower installed 403 new bi-directional meters. The current backlog is 225 customers, according to the Crown corporation.

READ MORE: Construction begins on wind energy facility near Assiniboia, Sask.

Until the meters are installed, LeGard tracks his power production and usage on an app. As of Sept. 3, the app said he’d put 366 kilowatts of power back into the grid that he is yet to get credit for.

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“It’s sort of like having a brand new car sitting in your driveway. Somebody parked there and tells you ‘you can’t drive it and you’ve already paid for it.’ I should have over 360 credits sitting in there,” he said.

SaskPower is developing a metric to get net metering program customers credit for power produced if they have been waiting for their bi-directional meter for more than 30 business days.

Cherry added these customers are now also able to claim their one-time installation rebate. This covers 20 per cent of the installation cost up to $20,000.

LeGard has been waiting on his rebate, which is worth around $4,000. He said he’d previously been told it won’t be paid out until the bi-directional meter is installed.

The net metering program has seen significant growth in the past three-and-a-half years. The program added 168 new customers in the 2016-17 fiscal year, 214 the next year and 896 in the 2018-19 fiscal year. At the end of that fiscal year, total customers using the program totaled 1,795.

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