2013 AGM & State Of Solar Session

Click on the photo below for the video:

Conference table with presenters


Q: Would you be able to stack net metering with CONFIT?
A: No - they wouldn't stack with FIT. In a large site, sure, you could stack them all.

Q: Is the scope of CONFIT looking at a large mix of ground level and rooftop?
A: Yes, generally.

Q: For a new building or renovation: how do you determine the size?
A: Nicole: we have an internal sales forecaster who does an estimate.

Q: Why is it limited to the consumption of the house?
A: Because that's the intention of net metering. That's how the legislation is written, to allow customers to offset the use of their own electricity.
Evan: it's left over from former net metering policy. Some folks had some issues with potential size - say if we produce more than we need, can we get that money? Hence enhanced net metering. If you're building a say 5500kW project, then that electricity needs to go somewhere, there's only so much capacity, so we're talking about Community.

Q: but what if it's a few kW larger?
Nicole: the enhanced net metering is already an advantage. For example in a warm winter, you might use less energy. Evan: we'd like to hear feedback on that during our review process. We only have so much capacity [in the distribution grid.] The CONFIT program has only been around for a year and a half though. We're already on our way to using up the distribution capacity. it's not all used up though. Go to http://nsrenewables.ca/ and get involved with the process.

Q: About Jennifer Watts' motion: is that only house by house, or for subdivisions?
Julian: that's for HRM owned buildings - to get our own houses in order and demonstrate some systms. It's peanuts to get a home ready for active solar systems. We have to start building our own corporate systems solar ready. Vancouver has required solar rough-in and solar-ready for homes in the municpality; we haven't yet.

Q: I'm working on a conference in Sydney to bring over speakers from England to talk about energy communities, and bringing Professor Hagar from Germany to talk about the Net Zero House. About bringing in investors to bring in 250K grids on rooftops: there are lots of people interested in doing that. Why don't we have the FIT program for resources here? There's lots of potential, there's lots of empty roofs. In Ontario because of the 60% rule it has required manufacturers to locate in there. 13 cents is not going to attract many people to invest in solar here. It has to be higher, we need to subsidize here.
Evan: We need to think in the context of 2008 - 2009. Since then, PV has gone down in price. At that time the technology was not quite there yet. Any of these projects being built are being paid for by NS Power ratepayers. Second, we're looking at our electricity needs; the peak here is at 7:00pm on January 15. The solar resource wasn't there at that time.

Q: The same issues have occurred in BC, in Germany, Italy, Greece and they've gotten around those things.
Evan: but Ontario is a summer peaking resource. At the end of the day there are a number of factors that determine that policy. You have to understand our electricity needs.

Q: Are you coordinating how to deal with that winter peak? Are you thinking about that? Is Nova Scotia Power thinking about that?
Nicole: the URB is thinking about that. Clearly we need to manage our load.
Lauren: we do need to take that into account.
Julian: they're guided by their integrated resource plan - the longterm load, generation mix and many other things. Wind will not be in urban environments. Solar will be, which peaks in the summer, and there is plenty of demand in the summer too. We've come a long way in renewables since 2005-6. A lot has happened in the last few years.

Q: Maybe things won't change- but look at how many people are putting in heat pumps.
Nicole: a lot of people are using heat pumps for air conditioning.
Don Roscoe: backup system for all solar homes is now a heat pump.

Q: I have an offgrid home. In desiging my own home, I realized that using electricity for heating or cooling is wrong. Using 13 cents per kWh to heat or cool our homes is foolish. It's much more sensible to use conservation so that our houses do not need all that energy.
Nicole: if we get people asking about ETS or heat pumps, we encourage conservation first.
Lauren: you need to make sure your building envelope is airtight before you go upgrading your heating system. we have rebates for existing homes and new homes to help with this.

Q: Re: the commercial enhanced net metering: if your PV system reduces your demand, would you have a lower demand charge?
Nicole: yes. The demand charge influences our installed capacity.

Q: If you have an ETS with time-of-day, you pay 17 - 18 cents durinig the daytime, if you produces energy during the daytime, do you get paid back at that high rate?
Nicole: yes

Q: How much capacity does NS power have in the grid to accept solar energy?
Nicole: I don't know that. We have a cap on the total enhanced net metering program.
Julian: the system operators are getting more comfortable [with feeding power in].

Q: what is a distribution zone?
Nicole: it is determined by our feeder system.

Q: These distribution zones really do not affect your grid at all, rright?
Nicole: right.

Q: Is there an internal Nova Scotia Power cap?
Nicole: no

Don Roscoe: Just a comment on single family residential: this is a very common problem, of an inefficient building design to which owners then try to add energy. In the last few winters we've hadd milder winters which means much less solar gain. The biggest problem with solar house design is not cooking yourself in the summer.

Q: If there was a FIT moving forward and if it included all forms of energy production, would it include existing customers?
Evan: if there was a new net metering program announced, you're not in a legally binding position to produce energy. Your ENM program can be cancelled at any time. That is, if a feed in tarriff comes, I can cancel my net metering and switch to it.
Julian: but, there is no FIT yet for these small systms ini the same way there is a COMFIT.

Q: Evan: there was some talk at the provicial level of creating passive solar orientation subdivisions. Is there still talk of that?
Evan: there has been active discussoin of this. I can follow up.

Q: if solar is added cto COMFIT, is there a regular FIT being considred?
Evan: in terms of the current review, we're not at that point yet. We need to truly understand the solar resource and potential programs. We are looking at everything including COMFIT and FIT.

Q: Following on the subdivision orientation: in HRM can you orient your home in any way?
Julien: it depends where you're building in HRM. We have truly rural lots, on a large lot you could orient your farm any way you want it, but in suburban and urban, you have the lot constraints which may make that difficult.
Don Roscoe: convention is so set that it's hard to get around that. you have to start by planniing. You don't really get to set how the roads run, but once that's done, you can design and shape the lots so you can both abide by planning requiurements and allow forr solar gain. You need to separate the house from the street so that you don't have a row of houoses facing the street, and get away from square, rectangular lots.
Richard Vinson: through speaking with Solar NS members and members of the Real Estate Association, and builders and agents, there's a dichotomy: the building industry somewhat has embraced solar and put up their model homes, and yet others who have built whole subdivisions solar-ready are getting very low uptake. l think it comes down to people being knowledgable about what what solar can do, what is possible with their homes. It's the market that determines how the homes are going to be buit. In my experience it can be more nonsolar than solar.
Don: the market is always yesterday's market. We need to get people looking ahead. People have to have enough knowledge to look ahead to see the valuue of the home in the future.

Q: Does the city have protection for people who install solar to protect those from future developments that would shade your house?
Julian: no, and there have been lawsuits, from e.g. condominiums going in. We're in very early days for "Right To Light" bylaws.
Meinhard: there are jurisdictions which have these.

I'm a planner for the municipality of Kings. We're rewriting our planning policies, and a big part of the consideration is renewable energy and how to make it happen. We have questions like, what are the physical requirements for on-house solar? What are the barriers, how can we address them? What kind of direction should we be going in? I'd appreciate your input.

Sandy Hines: the market has to lead on the adoption of solar. If we eliminated that $1250 per person, and put all that money towards education, we'd see a lot more uptake. if the various levels of government spent money on education, everyone would benefit. The grants and subsidies don't make our business work very well, because of the resulting cyclical interest.
Lauren: I agree with you; education is one component, rebates are another component. There's no single silver bullet. Education alone doesn't necessarily change behaviour, and often it won't drive them to change. So we look at: what are the barriers? It's going to change depending on who you talk to; money will influence one person, environmental benefits will influence another. We're going to do market studies to look at what things are bariers for uptake to these things; what will help get people over the barriers.

Q: About that $150 solar permitting process.
Julian: if you come in with a plan which has structural, plumbing, construction, electrical, and development review, and a plumbing permit. We rolled all of that into one thing. What our permitting people are saying is that it's llke building a shed or a deck, a simplilfied permitting process. We have a pamphlet for solar thermal that has checkboxes to fill in so you can get your permit within five days. It has questions for structural, CSA certified, property line for ground mounts etc. There has always been a legal obligation to give out permits; we've now made it easy and quick.

Q: With the deck example, there are certain things you have to do to make it work. Is the permitting process for solar similar? Does the municipality have a goal to make succcesful solar projects?
Julian: the staff will look for anything that is seriously out of place, but quite frankly the industry should be implementing best practices.

Q: Re: Solar Thermal rebates: I think we need to maintain a rebate. I've seen them come and go, and an important part of this is in fact education; the existence of the rebate is an indication [to the consumer] that the government thinks this thing works. I hear a lot of talk tonight about PV at the home level, but people need to keep in mind that that's about 12% efficient. vs solar thermal that is 50 - 75% efficient. Most homes have domestic hot water - for a fraction of the cost you can put in solar thhermal and displace that. That kind of education is important.

Q: Re education: I agree, but "How do you make money in this business?" The small FIT rate and rebates are nice, but what's happening in terms of encouoraging people to make money in solar PV? it seems like it's kind of... passive, pardon the pun. Not robust. [Contractors:] what would have to change in order for you to make more money?

The technology has to change. This can create jobs and a lot of money, providing there's policy to support it.

$300 barrel of oil and $1/kWh would also do it.

Also, long mortgages.

Q: If you take out a permit to biuld a new hhome, inclulsive in that building permit, you don't need to pay the extra $150.
A: But if you're putting PV on, you need to do this.

Q: [As a result of my education work, I have an abundance of potential clients] so I can for sure tie marketing and education together. It works for me. I invite corporate members of Nova Scotia to do PV courses. We need to take Solar Nova Scotia resources to get out there and do education.
Lauren: we are also thinking of, this year, of starting up a marketing program. The Solar City program has been very useful in education.