Current Conditions and Future Projections
Solar has become the most cost-effective way to generate energy across the globe. In British Columbia, we are now positioned to get on-board the solar wave with proven programs that promote the technology. A central pillar of the BC approach is an incentive called “Net Metering”. This program gives solar investors access to the electrical grid, which resolves major barriers to accessing solar energy. Through this post I will outline what makes BC great for solar energy and the main incentives you need to know about.
Energy in British Columbia
Most of BC’s energy comes from hydro-electric dams spotted throughout the province. The demand for this hydro-electricity to projected to significantly rise in the coming years and decades. The expected rise in electricity needs can be linked to a variety of factors including: population growth, urban expansion, and electric vehicle adoption, among others. Even with more dams scheduled to be built (ex. Site C) there is serious concern about meeting the province’s growing energy needs. BC Hydro and Fortis have made conservation a major component in addressing these demand increases (ex. LED retrofits, insulation, or using less) but this alone will not solve the problem. A second prong to their approach is local electricity generation through solar installations. This eases the burden on the aging electrical grid, require less or zero energy transmission, and is more cost effective than hydro-electric dams.
To promote the solar solution throughout British Columbia, both utilities offer a Net Metering program. This allows solar energy generators to connect with the grid, providing a variety of benefits. Specifically, when excess solar energy is produced (beyond what the property can use onsite) that extra energy is exported to the grid. When solar is not meeting the onsite energy demands, electricity is drawn from the grid to fill the gap. Through this interaction the existing electricity grid acts as a battery bank, a backup energy source, and a tax-free way to offset electricity costs (or generate income). Overall, the program is effective in lowering the barrier to entering the solar market and is an essential tool in transitioning to a low carbon economy.
It’s surprising, on the surface, that a Green coalition government (currently in power in BC) has not turned up the dial on renewable energy incentives. However, when you dig down to the economic reality of the solar market, the lack of additional incentives starts to make sense. The reality is, solar projects are already viable at the current level of incentives. Every project our firm designs will make money over the warranted life of the system and provide a valuable, tax-free benefit that reliably grows. Although additional incentives geared towards solar energy would be valuable for British Columbians; we don’t have to hold out for political action. The citizans of British Columbia now have the power to decide what’s next for energy in BC.