Yesterday BC Hydro hosted a webinar to solicit feedback on some potential changes to their net metering program. Net metering is the program whereby solar energy not being used by house loads in a grid-tied solar system are sent back to the grid for credit. The credit can then be drawn down later when the house loads exceed the solar production.
So what are these proposed changes and what do they mean to you?
In a nutshell, unless you have a solar system that, on an annual basis, exceeds what your house or business uses, the changes being considered are relatively minor and as a whole an overall improvement. If you are one of those few net-metering customers however that has a lot of over generation across a whole year, the changes will impact you pretty significantly. BC Hydro maintains that the net metering program was never intended as a way to generate money and instead as a mechanism to offset your own usage. In that same vein, they no longer want to pay out customers who over produce across a year at 9.9 cents/kWh and this annual payback value will either be greatly reduced (like what Fortis Electric did) or potentially eliminated entirely, depending on final design.
In our opinion, and for the vast majority of our solar customers, this really isn’t a big deal as their solar systems either match their consumption or produce less than their consumption over a year. We do however greatly sympathize with the 5 micro-hydro customers getting paid ~$244K per year for their over-generation and hope that some sort of special arrangement can be made for them to at least recoup the green investment they made.
Besides this price for excess energy, what else is being considered?
The good news is that “net metering” as we know it remains. You can still pump extra solar energy on any given sunny day into the grid and then draw down on that credit at night, on cloudier days, or over the winter period where solar is producing less, as depicted below:
Beyond that, some of the other changes being considered are, as a whole, positive, such as:
– Changing the date of the true-up period to something other than your system anniversary date (for example March 1). This is good news actually as for some solar customers who build up a big credit in the summer only to have their credit ‘paid out’ at 9.9 cents is actually worse than being able to draw down those credits through the winter where they have more electricity in the expensive tier 2 rate step.
– Extend the true-up period to something beyond 12 months. This means credits can be carried forward across more than 1 year in the case of unusual usage (ex. extended holiday, mild winter, hot summer). As a whole, this is also a good thing in our opinion as you maintain kWh credits for longer which is in essence the going retail rate of power (even better if electricity prices go up in this period and you get to use up your “old” credits still!).
So, if you were worried about committing to your solar project for fear of big negative changes to this program, you can breath easier. Just make sure that your solar provider sizes the system according to your own annual needs.
Feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or check out BC Hydro’s presentation from the webinar here.
BC Hydro is also running a survey to solicit further feedback on these proposed changes before their filing to BCUC, so make your voice heard before April 2nd! Link to survey