The minister responsible for SaskPower, Dustin Duncan, said a new residential solar program is coming in “weeks not months.”
This comes after SaskPower hit the 16-megawatt generation cap last week, far sooner than expected.
The net metering program allows solar customers to earn bill credits by selling excess power back to the Crown corporation.
SaskPower also offers up to a $20,000 rebate for installation, at 20 per cent of the installation cost.
Duncan said two weeks ago he was told by SaskPower that it will have to come up with a modified or new program by the end of the calendar year, as the cap was expected to hit in November or December.
“Literally day-by-day that November kept getting pushed sooner and sooner and sooner to the point where even last week SaskPower was forecasting that the cap would be hit Friday of last week. Then Tuesday or Wednesday night, we got the call that we’re up to 16 megawatts already,” Duncan said.
According to a SaskPower spokesperson, the net metering program was at 11.49 megawatts as of Aug. 31, 2019. This was when Duncan first talked about the program approaching capacity.
The minister added that whatever program comes next, it will have to be done in a “sustainable manner” so it doesn’t impact rates for those who choose not to have solar panels on their homes or can’t get them.
Solar providers have been calling on a replacement to be expedited, saying they risk layoffs and lost business if more customers are unable to connect to the grid.
Those in the industry, like TruGreen Energy’s CEO Miguel Catellier, said SaskPower should have had a fallback plan for when the cap was approaching. Catellier said this even could have been continuing net-metering for additional wattage even if customers couldn’t get the rebate.
What he wants to see is basic one-to-one net metering. This is where if customers produced 300 kilowatts of power, they get 300 kilowatts credit on their bill. In Catellier’s view, anything less is the government not taking this seriously.
“We’ve got a government in Saskatchewan who’s touting a made-in-Saskatchewan climate plan, that we don’t need a carbon tax — how quickly they’re going to roll out this program and we can get back to work,” he said.
“This is going to be the real test to see if they’re serious about their emission targets or is it just talk.”
Until the new program is announced, TruGreen is effectively out of business, according to Catellier. This is because they can’t sign up any new customers until net metering applications reopen.
Josh Campbell, with Regina-based Wascana Solar Co-op, said that board will be having an emergency board meeting Monday to discuss Duncan’s announcement. Like Catellier, Campbell wonders why SaskPower didn’t have a contingency to allow new customers to sign up for net metering even without the rebate.
Campbell added that when he contacted SaskPower to ask about the next steps, he said he was told the board only meets four times a year.
“These are people’s jobs on the line. It’s an industry that’s growing like crazy and helps hit SaskPower’s emission goals,” Campbell said.
“It shows me they don’t care about industry that they didn’t plan additional meetings when it became apparent the cap was approaching.”
Both Campbell and Catellier are encouraged Duncan is talking about weeks, not months, for a firm answer on what the next step is.
The Opposition NDP are adding to the chorus of voices, saying the province should have adapted sooner when it first became apparent the cap would be reached well before the initial projection of November 2020.
“It’s a demonstration of sad incompetence of this minister and the Sask. Party on this front, and a real failure of the Sask. Party to recognize this success for what it is,” NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said.
WATCH: New SaskPower solar customers face delays in earning bill credits