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Nova Scotia Power postpones proposed solar fee by one year

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia Power puts solar fee proposal on hold' Nova Scotia Power puts solar fee proposal on hold
WATCH: There's been backlash in recent days to Nova Scotia Power's proposal to charge a fee for installing solar panels. Even before it was approved, the plan has been turning people away from solar. Now the utility says it’s putting the fee hike on hold for a year. Alicia Draus reports. – Feb 1, 2022

On Thursday, Nova Scotia Power submitted a general application to the province’s Utility and Review Board to increase rates and to add a new fee for solar power customers.

Days later, after outcry from a number of groups including environmental organizations, solar companies and homeowners, Nova Scotia Power put out a release saying they were making a change to their initial application.

Read more: Nova Scotia Power CEO says proposed new solar fee about ‘fairness for all customers’

The original proposal included a monthly fee for solar users of $8 per kilowatt of electricity. That would amount to about $960 annually for the average user.

The fee, which would require approval from the Utility and Review Board, was proposed to be retroactive to Feb. 1 2022, something that prompted concern in the solar industry.

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“People have either cancelled their orders or if they were starting to explore the idea of solar, they’ve just completely abandoned it,” said Matt Grant, a territory manager with Watts Up Solar.

“It just created so much uncertainty in our industry.”

Solar experts say that while many turn to solar to help the environment, the installation costs can be a barrier. Many individuals, though, have found the savings to be worth the investment, but the new fee changes that.

Click to play video: 'Advocates decry proposed Nova Scotia Power fee for those who generate their own power' Advocates decry proposed Nova Scotia Power fee for those who generate their own power
Advocates decry proposed Nova Scotia Power fee for those who generate their own power – Jan 28, 2022

An average system is about 10 years to pay back,” said Lyle Goldberg with HES PV, one of Canada’s largest solar suppliers.

“With this added charge it would take 25 years, which is essentially the life of the system, so it totally erodes consumer confidence in purchasing solar.”

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In a statement from NS Power Tuesday afternoon, President and CEO Peter Greg says that collaboration and consultation are important to his team and that “when we don’t get it right, we are committed to fixing it.”

The statement goes on to say based on concerns that are being raised, they are changing the date for the solar fee from Feb. 1 2022 to Feb. 1 2023, which gives the industry and potential customers a year to prepare.

Grant says that it’s the best outcome they could hope for in the short term, but in the long term they need to do more.

“We need to stay organized and communicating to come up with a long-term solution that will allow the industry not just to exist, but continue to flourish,” said Grant.

In the meantime, Nova Scotia Power’s Utility will still require approval from the Utility and Review Board and already political parties have applied for intervener status to take part in that process.

“It’s clear that Nova Scotia Power’s interests are the profits of its shareholders,” said NDP MLA Claudia Chender.

Read more: Nova Scotia Power seeks 10 per cent rate hike and system to defer green energy costs

The concern isn’t just over solar. The General Rate Application also seeks to increase rates for residential customers by 9.9 per cent over three years.

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“We need to make sure that any changes in the fee structure or for changes to solar actually work for Nova Scotia and for Nova Scotians,” said Chender.

Liberal MLA Carman Kerr says it’s an issue to do with affordability.

“I would like to see a more reasonable increase on rates.”

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