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Net metering ready to roll in Newfoundland

['Telegram file photo<br />A digital electric power meter.']
['Telegram file photo<br />A digital electric power meter.']

Net metering with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and Newfoundland Power will be possible as of Canada Day.

Nearly two years after the former Progressive Conservative government added an exemption to the Electrical Power Control Act to allow for net metering in the province, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) has issued its approval.

In an order issued Thursday, the PUB said utilities can begin offering the related credit. Net metering involves allowing power customers to add small-scale renewable energy production to their properties (for example, solar panels) with the program accepting production capacity of up to 100 kilowatts. Ratepayers work off the installed technology, with any power in excess of their needs being supplied to the grid for credit. On the other hand, as needed, they can take power from the grid.

The province has capped the total production capacity installed under the program at five megawatts. Utilities are required to report annually to the PUB to, in part, assure that capacity is not overstepped. Their first report is due by April 1, 2018.

The value of excess power will be credited to a customer’s bill. As per a request by the utilities to the PUB, that value will be based on their marginal costs, being different from the utilities’ retail price for power.

It is the only point, the PUB noted, where the approved plan for net metering has deviated from what the province set out in its “framework,” announced in July 2015.

“The Board did not receive any input from government during the review of the applications in relation to this deviation from the Framework, either by way of a direction pursuant to the Electrical Power Control Act, or by way of comments filed in the process of the review of the applications,” the PUB stated.

As a result, the value of extra power available from infrastructure added through net metering will vary, with customers on the main island grid receiving the Newfoundland Power “wholesale excess energy rate,” or essentially the cost to cover fuel at Hydro’s Holyrood power plant. That rate is currently about 9.5 cents per kilowatt hour.

Both the rate and the cap on how much additional renewable power generation is installed in the province are meant to avoid having too many customers rushing to install their own renewable power systems, no longer contributing the same share as they do at present to the massive bills for Hydro’s ongoing capital improvements and the government-backed Lower Churchill hydro project at Muskrat Falls.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industries Association (NEIA) issued a statement Friday saying its leadership is excited to see net metering finally arrive.

“The introduction of net metering in this province will enable growth in our renewable energy sector,” NEIA executive director Kieran Hanley said in the statement. “It will provide electricity consumers with new options to lower their costs, and allow businesses a better opportunity to incorporate renewable energy in their products and services.”

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