Early in 2018, BC Hydro announced a change to the net metering program that allowed consumers producing solar power to feed surplus electricity to the grid. Only one in 1,400 BC Hydro customers were in the program and only six were adding more than a tiny surplus. So, the policy change didn’t have much effect in 2018.
But the utility that for years could not estimate demand growth accurately and missed on the Site C cost estimate by at least $8 billion knew the danger posed by rooftop solar panels. How to expand a business empire if you allow ordinary people to interfere?
A recent report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows why electricity monopolies are worried about energy democracy.
EIA stated that generation from small-scale, customer-sited photovoltaic (PV) solar in New England is growing steadily and contributing to reduced demand for electricity from utilities. This is despite the region having less solar potential than most of the country.
The cost of each KWh of solar power produced by consumers has been dropping steadily, while prices charged by utilities have been rising. Continuation of these trends threatens the business models that companies like BC Hydro have enjoyed for decades.
In 2015, Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported on the future of photovoltaics:
Solar electricity generation is one of very few low-carbon energy technologies with the potential to grow to very large scale. As a consequence, massive expansion of global solar generating capacity to multi-terawatt scale is very likely an essential component of a workable strategy to mitigate climate change risk. Recent years have seen rapid growth in installed solar generating capacity, great improvements in technology, price, and performance…
If BC Hydro wanted consumers to benefit from inexpensive, non-destructive electricity, they would embrace both grid-scale and small-scale solar. With almost all of the power BC Hydro generates or buys from IPPs coming from hydro facilitates, the crown corporation is perfectly suited to utilize solar power as demand begins to grow. Electricity from the sun can reduce the need for hydroelectricity during daytime, thus saving hydropower to meet nighttime demand.
The Sun emits enough power onto Earth each second to satisfy the entire human energy demand for over two hours. Given that it is readily available and renewable, solar power is an attractive source of energy…
The amount of power collected from solar energy worldwide increased over 300-fold from 2000 to 2019. New technological advances over the last twenty years have driven this increased reliance on solar by decreasing costs, and new technological developments promise to augment this solar usage by further decreasing costs and increasing solar panel efficiency.Harvard University
As the efficiency of BC Hydro generating facilities declines — as is happening with climate change — solar and wind power will become crucial elements to keep appliances humming, lights burning and EVs running in BC.
I examined BC Hydro’s sources of energy, using annual report data from the last 25-years. Despite BC Hydro having issued more than a few press releases about generating station upgrades, the annual output of electricity per MW of installed capacity at hydro dams has been dropping.
Some of the reduction results from BC Hydro spilling water without generating electricity because of rising purchases of costly private power and soft demand in domestic and export markets. However, BC Hydro likes to deny they dump water for any reason beyond normal operations.
The drop in production of electricity per MW of capacity is substantial when comparing the most recent quinquennial period to the first charted above. It will likely continue dropping if drought conditions spread in North America.
(A reader told me of thorough scientific modelling studies (from the peer-reviewed literature) that showed decreasing precipitation patterns expected in the interior of British Columbia. More of that will be written about later.)
This week the U.S. Drought Monitor shows large sections of Alaska suffering “abnormally dry” conditions.
Climate change will alter flows of fresh water in ways not entirely predictable, but British Columbia may not be able to rely on hydropower to meet energy needs. Actions to discourage solar power, while good for short-term utility profitability, it is moronic public policy contrary to established energy trends.
From energy access to climate justice and from anti-privatisation to workers’ rights, people across the world are taking back power over the energy sector, kicking-back against the rule of the market and reimagining how energy might be produced, distributed and used.Energy-Democracy.net
Climate change is warming Canada’s great expanse of boreal forest, bringing greater risk of fire and disease
Categories: BC Hydro
I installed solar panels on my roof in 2016 at 100% cost to myself. Many other citizens are doing the same and the numbers are growing. Together, we are slowly reducing the load BC Hydro has to deliver to its customer at no capital expense to BC Hydro. You would think BC Hydro would encourage its customers to install solar panels but they seem intent on making it more difficult on us. I do not understand.
Energy democracy? A trend? Terrible idea. But ever-regressive Nevada, briefly, did lead the way to all but killing the consumer solar energy payback idea
At first the huge numbers who bought rooftop solar were considered a blessing. So too was the state’s NVEnergy buying electricity from Nevada’s population. Win Win.
“An independent study commissioned by the state legislature in 2013 concluded, however, that solar users created a $36m net benefit for traditional customers…. ”
But the state’s energy utility apparently decided that energy control and hence profitability was their monopoly. So this happened.
“Although Nevada is one of the sunniest places in the world, there has recently been a dark cloud hovering over the rooftop solar industry in the state. Just before Christmas, Nevada’s public utility commission (PUC) gave the state’s only power company, NV Energy, permission to charge higher rates and fees to solar panel users – a move that immediately shattered the rooftop solar industry’s business model.”
“In addition to the new monthly fee, which will increase to $40 from $12 over the next five years, customers like Stewart will get less back from the utility for energy their solar panels capture and feed into the main power grid. Whereas previously they received full retail value for their surplus electricity, soon NV Energy will only pay a third of that price for exported electricity.”
“The uneven effect would be that during dark hours and cloudy days, solar customers could pay full price for energy, even after contributing two or three times as much electricity to the power grid during the same day. As the Alliance for Solar Choice frames it, the $40 fee eliminates the $11 to $15 solar users typically save on their monthly electricity bills.”
““It’s simple math,” said Bryan Miller, president of the Alliance for Solar Choice. “The commission eliminated all solar savings. People would pay more for going solar rather than less. It has left companies no choice but to stop doing business in the state.””
“The changes by NV Energy are part of a national trend in big utility companies arguing to eliminate the financial incentive to switch to rooftop solar, though Nevada is the only state thus far to grant such a change while also applying the new rules retroactively to existing customers.”
“Nevada’s governor, Brian Sandoval, and NV Energy defended the PUC decision, saying that the current rate structure put too large a burden for maintaining the grid on non-solar consumers. In an emailed statement, NV Energy wrote that the revised rate structure “fairly allocates the costs of providing electric service among all customers” and “results in no additional profit to NV Energy”.
An independent study commissioned by the state legislature in 2013 concluded, however, that solar users created a $36m net benefit for traditional customers, a finding NV Energy dismissed as reliant on outdated solar pricing data.”
The US largest solar farm is cancelled because Nevada locals don’t want to look at it.
California invested heavily in solar power. Now there’s so much that other states are sometimes paid to take it
Who Owns The Sun?
Be wary of outdated reports. When the public speaks loudly enough, governments change policies, even governments that typically favour corporate monopolies and oligopolies.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2022:
The newspaper reports that Nevada is now #1 in the USA for jobs created by the solar industry.
Always appreciate your insights and perspectives. Thank you.
If Hydro had, instead of wasting $20 billion on Site C, spent $4000/person ($16,000/ 4 person household), we would ALL have solar power AND a perfectly good valley to feed our population!
One is afraid to post these days as the present government mimicking the previous Liberal government, which in turn tried to out do the Gordon Campbell Liberal government in corruption, that any post seems to both a “I told you so” and “how bad can it get?”
We are at tipping point both for the environment and the economy and the Horgan government has seemed to take a holiday from reality. Horgan, himself, seems to be completely uninterested.
The heir apparent to the NDP crown also seems completely unconcerned has he seems to want to continue the present moronic public policy.
One grows weary of the utter and complete corruption of government, which is only trumped by the mainstream media.
The BC and Canadian ship of fools is about to strike a reality iceberg and there will be few survivors.