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SaskPower shuts off net metering program due to overwhelming demand

SaskPower has shut off a net-metering program in Saskatchewan which gave residents the ability to collect a rebate by lowering their energy emissions through solar power.
SaskPower has shut off a net-metering program in Saskatchewan which gave residents the ability to collect a rebate by lowering their energy emissions through solar power. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Montoya Bryan

SaskPower is switching off a program that reduces the cost to homeowners who install solar panels on their roofs.

The Crown corporation has closed the application to join the net metering program, which has reached its 16-megawatt cap.

The program offered rebates for solar panel installations and credits for surplus power.

”Just in the last day since we informed vendors that we were approaching the cap, partly driven by media attention I’m sure, we saw a significant rush of new applicants and that’s why we’ve reached the cap today,” said SaskPower spokesperson Joel Cherry.

READ MORE: New SaskPower solar customers face delays in earning bill credits

SaskPower said the average number of applications to the program has increased by 80 per cent since July 2019.

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The NDP is frustrated the program is closing and said this is a step back for those trying to live with lower carbon emissions.

“It’s leaving federal rebate dollars on the table. It’s also getting in the way of people being part of making that transition to renewable energy and having the opportunity to lower their bills,” said Opposition Leader Ryan Meili.

The president of solar energy provider Truegreen Energy, Miguel Catellier, sees deep concerns for solar businesses in Saskatchewan as a result of this announcement.

“They’ve suspended all interconnection and all net metering to the grid. So, what that means is: 57 companies that install solar in Saskatchewan, we can no longer — Saskatchewan people can no longer connect to the grid of the solar system.”

READ MORE: SaskPower residential solar incentives likely to be revised sooner than expected

“It’s kind of a hybrid system, you’ve got solar panels that produce energy, and you’re still connected to the grid — it’s called net metering. Without that ability to interconnect to the grid, it’s not possible to run a solar enterprise or to go solar in Saskatchewan,” he explained.

“So, instead of saying, ‘we’re going to review the rebate’ which is fair, they said you just can’t operate altogether,” Catellier said. “We couldn’t believe what we were hearing.”

Catellier said what is an announcement today, will impact the lives of many people in the solar industry in the future.

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“These 57 companies might have a couple week or a couple months worth of work — but after that, we have no definite time as to when this is going to come back or when we’re going to be able to connect to the grid again.

“We have customer service, salespeople, systems design people who have nothing to do,” explained Catellier, “we could very reasonably say there are 500 jobs at risk.”

SaskPower is reviewing the net metering program to make sure it’s financially sustainable. Until then, all prospective solar customers can do is wait for what’s next.

“Existing customers tied to the grid won’t be affected, but we’ve got hundreds and hundreds of people that are in different stages of the process that won’t qualify anymore,” said Catellier.

“We’ve got a province that is touting a made-in-Saskatchewan climate plan, we’re saying ‘we can do it on our own here,’ and here we’ve got an entire solar industry — 57 companies — that by springtime, many will be out of business.”

The NDP has put forward its own plan to expand renewable energy sources.

The Renew Saskatchewan plan offers loans so solar panels can be installed to buildings and government would collect back the loan over time through the customer’s power bill.

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