Canada’s Saskatchewan province to halt net metering for solar

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Canadian utility SaskPower, which serves approximately 522,000 customers in the province of Saskatchewan, has announced it will only continue accepting applications for net metered solar projects until November 31, 2021 or when a 16 MW capacity limit set for the scheme is reached.

With the power company itself having estimated the 16 MW cap will be reached very soon, it appears likely the net metering regime, which is open to solar systems with a capacity of up to 100 kW, will close long before late 2021. Net metering permits system owners to receive payments for unused energy injected back to the grid, which are then offset from their electric bill.

SaskPower added it has registered a large influx of new project applications for net metering of late, with increasingly popular commercial and industrial arrays driving up the average size of net metered systems by 80% since July. “We have seen a dramatic increase in uptake in the program in recent weeks, driven in part by federal funding that applies to large net metering projects,” said SaskPower CEO Mike Marsh.

The Government of Saskatchewan is supporting the scheme with a rebate to cover around 20% of system costs. The rebate is set at CA$0.61/watt (US$0.46), with a maximum payment of CA$20,000 per project available.

Cap breach ‘in the coming days’

“Once that cap is reached in the coming days, SaskPower will not accept new applications until a review of the program is completed into how the net metering program can be offered in a fiscally sustainable manner,” the utility said.

Tim Schulhauser, finance vice-president for solar installer SkyFire Energy, told news website Globalnews.ca there are more than 50 solar companies in Saskatchewan employing more than 500 people that could be severely hit by the utility’s decision. “To me it’s ironic that the unprecedented demand for the program is what caused it to shut down early,” Schulhauser said. “The demand had shown that people want it in Saskatchewan and I think it’s important to realize that the people of Saskatchewan own the utility.”

SaskPower in April launched a tender for a 10 MW solar plant.

The Economics of Solar Power in Canada report published by the Canadian National Energy Board stated Saskatchewan is one of the most promising of Canada’s regions for solar energy development due to high power prices.

Saskatchewan gets 20% of its power from hydroelectric generation and 5% from 220 MW of wind power generation capacity. A further 207 MW of wind projects are under development and could enable the technology to contribute 10% of the province’s electricity next year.