There is no timeline on when the regulatory details might be sorted out for the province’s new net metering policy, announced earlier this summer.
The specifications on what can be done and what cannot — what responsibilities and costs will lie with the utilities, Newfoundland Power and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro — have not been settled by the province’s Public Utilities Board (PUB).
Net metering allows individuals to use small-scale renewable power sources of their own (for example, solar panels, small windmills) to produce for their own needs, even feeding excess energy back into the provincial utility power grids for payment, or a credit on their utility bills.
“Businesses have been waiting a long time for this (government) announcement. Unfortunately the announced framework on July 28, 2015 does not mandate timelines for Newfoundland Power or N.L. Hydro to develop and implement their programs,” said Ted Lomond, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association (NEIA), in a statement issued this morning.
The NEIA, with its 190 members, is wary at this point that net metering is “still a long way from reality.”
The utilities are responsible for program details specific to their customers. Those details must then be presented to the PUB for review and approval.
The trouble is, the PUB is a bit busy at the moment.
Currently on the regulator’s to-do list: a general rate application for Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, including public hearings this September; a capital budget application from Hydro for the coming year; a Newfoundland Power capital budget application for the coming year; Phase 2 of the ongoing investigation into the provincials power system, with Liberty Consulting recently ordered to complete another sub-review, this one on outages experienced in March 2015. The list goes on.
Net metering is “not even on the radar,” according to Danny Dumaresque, a former MHA and intervener on multiple PUB files.
“I’ve had assurances from both utilities they’re working on this and it’s not something they’re putting on the backburner,” said Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley, when asked about the NEIA’s concerns.
He said the utilities and the PUB were consulted on the net metering framework before it was announced.
“With respect to the PUB and their timelines: we don’t set their timelines. We don’t control their agenda.”
He was not critical of the PUB, making a point of saying they have a lot on their plate, as the province continues with its transition from an isolated power system to an interconnected one, with both parts of itself and with the rest of Canada, under the Lower Churchill Project.
Lomond, meanwhile, says the NEIA will remain “cautiously optimistic” on making net metering truly available in a short timeframe.
“We encourage the government, Newfoundland Power, N.L. Hydro, and the PUB to keep industry and the public informed on the road to implementation,” he said.