Nova Scotia Power CEO says proposed new solar fee is about ‘fairness for all customers’
Nova Scotia’s electric utility chief defends a proposal to charge fees to customers who sell renewable energy back to the grid, a plan that critics say will undermine the booming solar industry in Province.
Nova Scotia Power President and CEO Peter Gregg says without the fees, homeowners who generate their own electricity using solar panels are currently being subsidized by other customers.
He says the monthly fee for people selling excess electricity back to the system will ensure fairness for all customers.
Nova Scotia Power, a subsidiary of Emera Inc., last week asked the provincial regulator to charge solar customers about $8 per kilowatt of electricity.
It comes to about $960 per year for a typical 10 kilowatt solar PV installation, which generates about $1,800 in annual revenue, which doubles the time it takes to recoup the cost of installing the system.
Critics say the proposed fee could wipe out the province’s emerging solar industry.
It has also renewed lingering worries about the 30-year-old utility’s privatization and its allowed return on equity of around 9%, a situation that appears to be contributing to some of the rancor surrounding the proposed fees.
Opponents have even gone so far as to accuse the private company of using its monopoly on electricity distribution to crowd out competition from small-scale renewable systems.
But Gregg says the proposed new grid access fee would contribute to a strong and fair “net metering program” and is a critical part of getting Nova Scotia off coal by 2030.
“These are customers who generate their own electricity at their homes or businesses and use (Nova Scotia Power’s) power lines and infrastructure to put their excess energy on the grid or use electricity from the grid when they don’t produce enough,” he said. in a statement on Saturday.
“Today, the energy and service provided by (Nova Scotia Power) to solar customers is subsidized by all other (Nova Scotia Power) customers. Our intention in the general tariff application is to remedy this fact and find a solution with the regulator. it’s fair for all customers.”
Gregg says he understands the concerns raised by the solar industry and some customers, and plans to meet with industry leaders early next week.
“We will continue to support the development of more renewable energy in Nova Scotia while maintaining our commitment to ensuring fairness for all customers,” he said.
David Brushett, president of Solar Nova Scotia, said in a recent interview that the fees would make solar power “impossible for just about everyone.”
Nova Scotia Power’s proposal is already creating uncertainty in the industry as nervous consumers reconsider solar installations planned for this spring, Brushett said.
“Even if the regulator ultimately rejects it, there will be uncertainty over the next few months and no one will be installing solar power.”
Nova Scotia Power’s monthly fee, if approved as proposed, will apply retroactively to people installing solar systems starting next month.
The regulator is expected to hear the rate application, which has more than 3,000 pages of documentation, this fall and normally takes up to 90 days to make decisions.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 30, 2022.