Complete Guide For Solar Power Ontario 2019
Congratulations! You’ve found the ultimate guide for going solar in Ontario!
Ontario is currently ranked the #9 province in the country for installing a solar power system, but it has one of the lowest installation costs in the country and high access to installers.
This page contains all available information about installing solar in Ontario including solar incentives, regional geography, electrical utilities, and access to solar, as of 2019.
You can read from top to bottom, or skip to your preferred section by clicking on it below:
Overall Solar Rating
We’ve ranked Ontario as being Canada’s ninth-best province for solar power in 2019. Ontario scores lower than many provinces due to a lack of an incentive program and very low electricity rates, but it also has one of the lowest solar installation costs in the country and access to a large number of solar installation companies.
Curious to see how and why we rank the provinces the way we do? Check out the Solar Rankings Page to find out more.
Basic System Information
When thinking about solar power, the first questions that often come to a person’s mind are:
- “How big does my solar system need to be?”
- “Can I completely offset my electricity usage?”
- “How much will it cost?”
This section is intended to answer these basic questions before going into the details about installing solar in Ontario.
Sizing Your System
Determining the size of system you need is as simple as knowing how much energy you use during the course of a year. Your monthly hydro bill (see Hydro One’s Electricity Bill as an example) will show your usage (in kWh) similar to the photo below:
You’ll need to figure out how much energy you use in a year by adding up the amount shown for 12 consecutive months. Note that taking one month and multiplying by 12 won’t work because energy use fluctuates depending on the season.
After you know how much energy you use, you can easily calculate the size of the solar power system that you’ll need by using the following equation:
Size of system needed (in kW) = yearly energy use (in kWh) / 1,166h
(where 1,166h equals the annual average equivalent of full sunlight hours in Ontario)
So let’s pretend you added up your hydro bills and determined that you use 10,000kWh over the course of a year, you would then do the above calculation and determine that you need a 8.58kW solar panel system!
10,000kWh / 1,166h = 8.58kW
Now that you know the size of your system, you’ll want to determine the best place to put it. Most residential homeowners in Ontario put the solar panels on their roof, while most rural homeowners put them on the roof of their house, shop, or on the ground in their yard.
If you’re putting solar panels on your roof, you should know:
- A south facing roof is best, east and west facing are good, north facing is just OK
- Output on panels are guaranteed for 25 years, so you may need to replace your shingles (or entire roof) before installing
- If you’re concerned about snow, know that roof mounted panels are harder to clean off
- Your roof’s pitch (slope) is not the most optimal angle for solar production
If you’re putting solar panels on the ground, you should know:
- These systems are more expensive upfront due to piling requirements, mounting materials, and power line trenching…
- … But are cheaper in the long term because they are more efficient (see next point)
- They can be easily placed to avoid shading, to the optimal direction (south), and to the optimal angle (~45°)
- Systems can be much larger than roof mounted ones
Cost of Installation
The last piece of basic information that you’ll want to know is an approximation of how much your system will cost. To calculate this you’ll need to know the size of the system you plan to install (see previous section).
The rough calculation is simple. Just take the size of your system and multiply it by the $2.53/Watt (the average cost of installing a solar system in Ontario). Using the example from the sizing section, we can see that a 8.58kW system would cost approximately $21,707 to install.
System cost = size needed x cost per installed watt
= 8,580Watts x $2.53/Watt
Please note that the exact price of the system depends on several factors including the system size, the quality of equipment used, and the complexity of the job. Even the range in the chart above is just for the average – installation prices can easily go as high as $3.00/Watt for premium equipment installed by the highest quality installers.
Major Program: Save on Energy
Savings On: Energy Efficiency Upgrades
Ontario has relatively few incentives compared to other provinces and no solar rebates. This section briefly covers the energy incentives available to homeowners. A more in-depth explanation of each can be found on the Ontario Incentives Page.
Solar Rebates & Tax Credits
The only solar rebate program that was available to Ontario homeowners was the GreenOn Solar Rebate Program – however, this was cancelled by the conservative provincial government.
Other Energy Incentives
Ontario also does have a number of other energy incentives available to homeowners:
- Save on Energy Program
- For Ontario residents
- Incentives for energy efficiency upgrades
- PoolSaver Program
- For select hydro communities
- Rebates for pool pumps
- Home Assistance Program
- For low-income residents
- AfordAbility Fund
- For everyday homeowners
- Free selection of various energy services
Businesses can now use the Federal Tax Provision for Clean Energy Equipment to fully expense their solar system. This means a CCA rate of 100% and the abolishment of the first-year rule.
Remember, energyhub.org also has a special solar incentive. It’s not huge, but it’s easy to claim – just send us a picture of your installation or purchase agreement with one of our certified energy installers. Full details on the energyhub.org Cash Incentive Page.
Production Efficiency: 1166kWh/kW/yr
Average Energy Use: 10MWh/yr
In terms of available natural resources and homeowner energy demand, Ontario is one of the best provinces in the country to install solar. This section briefly covers the amount of sunlight that Ontario receives (solar irradiation) as well as energy demand from homeowners.
Ontario has the fifth-highest potential to produce solar energy in all of Canada, receiving more solar irradiation than most other provinces except for the prairies and Quebec!
According to data from National Resources Canada, the average solar system in Ontario can produce 1166kWh of electricity per kW of solar panels per year.
Here is how much an average solar system can produce each month, as well as the solar irradiation potential map for Ontario:
This yearly average decreases as you move north in the province and increases as you move south. For example:
- A 1kW solar system in Toronto would produce about 1,163 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Ottawa would produce about 1,199 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Mississauga would produce about 1,160 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Brampton would produce about 1,155 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Hamilton would produce 1,152 kWh/yr
Total Energy Demand
According to the Canada Energy Regulator, Ontario uses approximately 10MWh of electricity per person, per year (including industrial and transportation demand)! And although only a small portion of this is used within the household, the number still demonstrates a strong need for energy generation and energy efficiency technologies.
In sum, the energy generated from an average-sized solar system can produce enough energy to offset your home’s yearly energy usage
Variable Costs: $0.10/kWh
Fixed Costs: $34/mo
Setup Fees: Varies
Key Policy: Met Metering
Ontario is one of the worst province in the country for switching to solar power in terms of utility related factors. This section covers how the costs of electricity as well as solar setup fees affect of the feasibility of solar in Ontario.
Variable Electricity Costs
Variable electricity rates determine the maximal amount of money that can be saved by switching to solar – ie. they represent the portion of your hydro bill that goes to zero when you don’t use any energy. Thus the super low rates in Ontario ($0.10/Watt) means that the average homeowner only has a little bit to save.
Fixed Electricity Costs
On the other hand, fixed electricity costs are not so good because they don’t disappear even if you switch to solar power – you’ll pay them as long as you remain connected to the grid. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – $34/mo is a small price to pay for using the grid as your energy back-up and virtual energy storage device!
The only way to completely remove your fixed costs is to go off the grid, something most homeowners don’t do due to the large price and maintenance costs of battery storage. Plus, disconnecting from the grid means you won’t be able to participate in a net metering program.
Net Metering Policy
Net Metering is one of the most important policy mechanisms that makes solar a feasible energy generation option. Net Metering essentially means that you can send the excess energy that you produce (during the day the summer) back to the electricity grid and earn credits for that energy at the same retail rate that you buy it for.
These credits can then be used to offset your energy usage during times when your solar system doesn’t produce as much energy as is needed (during the night and winter). Without this mechanism, you would need to purchase an extremely costly set of batteries.
Ontario’s Net Metering Program allows for any size of system to be connected to the grid for net metering, however, it’s very important to note that credits in Ontario expire yearly, thus you’ll want to work closely with your installer to make sure your system perfectly matches your energy usage.
Solar Setup Fees
Solar setup fees vary greatly across the province. For example, if you’re a Hydro One customer you don’t have to pay anything, but if you’re a Guelph Hydro customer you have to pay $1,700 for an interconnection study and a bi-directional meter when you switch to solar power. This is opposed to several other provinces like Alberta and British Columbia where there are no setup fees for anyone.
Access To Solar
Upfront Cost: $2.53/Watt
Installer Access: High
A completely new section to this year’s Ontario solar guide, Access to Solar explores the major accessibility factors in the province.
Cost of Installation
The upfront cost of installation is obviously one of the largest factors that determines whether or not a person is going to switch to solar. The current prices in Ontario range from $2.00-$3.00 with the average price being somewhere around $2.53.
The price changes depending on a variety of factors:
- The size of system required (larger systems are cheaper on a per Watt basis)
- The complexity and/or specific requirements of the job
- The type and quality of equipment used
- The quality of the installation company
Remember, you can easily calculate the total estimated cost of your system in the Basics Section at the top of this page.
In general, aiming for the cheapest price shouldn’t be your goal. Remember that the energy output on solar equipment is guaranteed for 25 years, so you want to make sure that your installation job is good enough to support that. You’ll also want to be sure that the company you choose will be around in 5 to 10 years from now in case you need service or warranty work done.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is an innovative financing option that allows you to cover the entire upfront cost of your solar system (or energy efficiency upgrades) with a $0 down, long amortization period, low interest ‘loan’.
However, unlike a typical loan, this loan is attached to your property (not you) and is paid back alongside your property tax bill as a Local Improvement Charge (LIC). The only eligibility is that you need to own a certain portion of your property.
While the legislation does exist in Ontario for PACE financing, the only major example of a municipality actually enabling it is the Home Energy Loan Program in Toronto.
Other Financing Options
Obviously though, PACE is not the only way to finance a solar system. Systems can be financed by cash, bank loans, installer financing, home equity loans, a home equity line of credit, a mortgage (for new builds), or through energy loans.
Several options exist for Ontario homeowners:
- Scotia EcoEnergy Financing (energy loan)
- For small businesses only
- Scotia Bank contact number: 1-877-552-5522
- RBC Energy Saver Loan (energy loan)
- Up to 10 years amortization
- RBC contact number: 1-800-769-2511
- TD Bank (various options)
- TD contact number: 1-866-389-8888
- CMHC Mortgage Loan Premium Rebate
Access to Installers
The final category that we ranked for this year’s Ontario solar guide is the access to reputable and high-quality solar installers. And fortunately, Ontario has no shortage of them.
Solar Power Ontario: Summary
Ontario has good financing options, high installer penetration, and the lowest installation costs in the country – however, we still rank Ontario as being the #9 best province in the country for switching to solar power.
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