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BEPPLE – BC Hydro selleth and taketh on solar power, but not payeth

Nancy Bepple with her solar panels.

ASK ANYONE who knows me, and they will tell you that I love the solar panels on my house.   I’m one of hundreds of households across B.C. who have installed solar panels over the last few years.  Look around Kamloops, and you will see more houses with solar all the time.

For me, it’s a concrete way to take personal action on climate change and energy choices.

Three years ago, I installed a 2000 W panel system on my house.  It was a sizeable investment of about $8,000, which will take 15 years or more to pay off.

But now, I’m one of hundreds of people who is concerned about household solar power here in B.C.

BC Hydro wants to walk away from their agreement with homeowners who generate solar power.

One of the main reasons I got the panels is that BC Hydro would buy my excess power.  But that program, called Net Metering, is in jeopardy.

Net Metering works in part because whenever I have a surplus of electricity, the power flows to the BC Hydro grid.  Then when my system doesn’t produce enough electricity, like at night, I buy back from the grid.  So some days I sell electricity to BC Hydro, some days I buy electricity back from BC Hydro.

At the end of the year, using Net Metering, BC Hydro calculates whether I’ve bought or sold more power to them.  BC Hydro pays me what I pay them: 9.99¢/kWh.

Last year, BC Hydro paid me about $60 for the electricity I sold them over the year. The $60 may not seem like much, but over 15 years, that is $900.  That is 11 per cent of the cost of my system.  A sizeable portion of my original investment.

This week, BC Hydro announced Net Metering will not be available to customers generating power beyond their own energy needs.

BC Hydro no longer wants to buy back excessive power from me, or any other homeowner.

In effect, they want to walk away from their original agreement with me.  They would, of course, take any excess power from me: power flows back and forth between my home’s solar panels and BC Hydro’s grid on a daily basis.  But what they don’t want to do is pay for the excess power I produce at the end of each year.

BC Hydro wants to take my excess power and sell it to others.  But they want to pocket the $60 for themselves.

They don’t want to pay me the $60 for the power they gained from me (which they will sell to my neighbors).

There are many power producers who sell power to BC Hydro.  Domtar and Tolko here in Kamloops both generate power from wood waste, and sell excess to BC Hydro.  Run of the river hydro projects sell power to BC Hydro as well, typically at a far higher rate than BC Hydro pays me and other homeowners.

BC Hydro wants to treat homeowners who produce power differently than their other power producers.

They’ll take excess power from homeowners, of course.  They just don’t want to pay for it.

They don’t want to pay me my $60 per year.  Or pay any of the other hundreds of homeowners as well.

This could be a death knell for household solar systems in BC.

Keep in mind, I paid 100 per cent for the cost of my system, as did the hundreds of other homeowners for theirs.   Other homeowners who installed solar paid for 100 per cent of their systems too.

Keep in mind, the cost of Site C is estimated at $10.7 billion, a cost that we will all be paying for years to come.  That’s $10.7 billion coming out of BC Hydro’s coffers.  And the money that will have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is you and me.

BC Hydro will take my $60 to help pay for Site C.

There is a basic unfairness to a utility taking power from one source at no cost, then selling to someone else at a profit.

Unfairness aside, hundreds of people, including myself, were willing to invest in our shared future by creating solar power systems.  Hundreds more might want to as well.

But when BC Hydro is not willing to pay for the power, it is a signal that they have no interest in household solar systems.  They have no interest in fairness either.

Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.

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About Mel Rothenburger (5674 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

11 Comments on BEPPLE – BC Hydro selleth and taketh on solar power, but not payeth

  1. That you for making this known. I was not aware and I am thinking having solar panels installed on my home.

  2. Norman Farrell // April 25, 2018 at 8:01 PM // Reply

    BC Hydro declares they are paying too much to six participants in net metering so they want to stop paying anything to the more than 1,200 people in the program.

    The utility won’t reveal individual rates paid to independent power producers, some of which get 150% per KWh of the rate paid to net metering customers. BC Hydro is happy with secret IPP deals that sucked $1.06 billion out of the public system in the first nine months of the current fiscal year but worried about $220,000 paid under net metering.

    The unstated concern of BC Hydro is that rapidly rising power rates and declining solar installation costs will see a huge growth in customers wanting to contribute power to the grid. That puts the public power company’s current $12 billion capital spending program at risk.

    An old line can be extended: “Writers write, dancers dance, singers sing, and builders build.” BC Hydro’s objective is not to deliver economically, it is to keep expanding the empire.

    At my site, a reader who is an installer of solar systems who moved from Utah to B.C. had this to say about attitudes he’s encountered:

    “I’ve experienced the hostility and contention between the solar industry and entrenched utilities in the U.S. and the successes and failures in those political battles. It would appear that I will need to continue fighting for my job here in B.C.”

  3. LeoVictoria // April 25, 2018 at 6:11 PM // Reply

    Hi Nancy! Remember me? Challenge ski group.

    Anyway I don’t understand your story.
    2000W of solar panels will generate around 2000kWh of power in a year (give or take a bit). If you got $60 back last year that means you generated an excess 600kWh and thus used about 1200kWh for the year.
    We use 1200kWh in a month, how is it possible you use so little in a whole year?

  4. Jennie Stadnichuk // April 25, 2018 at 4:57 PM // Reply

    I echo D. Goar’s suggestion: this should be the subject of a legal challenge. Hydro has lied to you and has broken an agreement/contract! They are stealing your power! Perhaps the large group in BC in a similar situation can do a class action? or some group legal challenge!

    • I’m somewhat mathematically challenged, but by my calculations 2000kwh – 600kwh = 1400kwh. Additionally 2000watts (2 kilowatts) of solar power would generate perhaps 12 kwh of power/day or 360 kwh/summertime month. Methinks she must be living in the dark?

  5. Ross Lowndes // April 25, 2018 at 1:20 PM // Reply

    Thank Gordo and et al for his forward thinking we know best , attitude . That’s how we ended up here. Guarantee private (for profit)power producers up to 3times more than what we sell it for so they have a locked in profit. And we hydro customers subsidize their profits. Yet they hung over joe average whom is just trying to lessen the foot print, use renewables. The former Liebrals left us with a lot of hot air promises, that really just mean it will take a lot of work to fix. When your personal ideology is Corporations do it better. It maybe so ,if government doesn’t interfere.( demand unsustainable dividends). But the only truth is we..consumers get it.

  6. Dale Wood Shoemaker // April 25, 2018 at 11:45 AM // Reply

    and here I thought the B.C. gov’t was supposed to be environmentally conscious and wanted the people to go green

    ________________________________

  7. I’m not clear on Nancy’s article. At the end of the year when your yearly usage is reconciled with BC Hydro you mention you are getting $60 back. From your article that’s what’s at risk. However, would this not mean that your solar panels have paid for all your total power usage for the year? That needs to be taken into account when evaluating the pros & cons of a solar system, not just the year end net return. It’s my understanding that BC Hydro billing is based on a two tier system. Higher power use puts you into tier 2 which costs significantly more per kilowatt hour than tier 1. If solar systems are designed to eliminate your tier 2 costs there’s still a positive benefit to considering a solar system.

  8. BS. I am not interested in paying for your home improvements thanks.

  9. Thanks for this thoughtful article Nancy. There are at least two work arounds. One is to design an array to not produce excess, and the other is called grid zero. See https://sweetspotsolar.blogspot.ca/2016/12/the-grid-zero-house-almost-off-grid-but.html?m=1

  10. David Goar // April 25, 2018 at 8:26 AM // Reply

    This could, and should, be the subject of a legal challenge. BC Hydro would not take it the distance, as the damage to its public reputation ( particularly under the current government) would be intolerable.

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