Solar Power Canada 2019
(click on your province below to access your complete solar guide)
Provincial Solar Power Rankings
Every year, energyhub.org scores Canadian provinces and territories on various factors that determine the feasibility of property owners installing a solar energy system. These rankings were last updated November 6th, 2019.
Building off last year’s success, several new scoring sections are added for this year’s rankings. Sections are divided into 4 main categories and scored as indicated:
Utility factors currently play the largest role in determining the feasibility of solar power. Electricity rates determine the total costs that can be offset while interconnection policy dictates how much customers are paid for excess production. In this category, provinces are scored based on variable and fixed electricity rates, net metering policy, and interconnection fees.
Access to solar power is a brand new category that was added in 2019. It’s composed of 3 subsections that evaluate the accessibility of solar power to homeowners based on upfront costs, financing options, and access to reputable installation companies.
Solar energy incentives continue to play a key role in making solar power feasible, but not as much as they used to. Provinces are scored based on the size and availability of solar and energy efficiency incentives.
The amount of energy that can be produced by a photovoltaic system is dependent on the amount of sunlight that the panels receive, while the fundamental need for power is driven by energy consumption. The Geography category evaluates both of these supply and demand factors.
- Four of the top seven scoring provinces have major provincial solar incentive programs and six out of seven have had a major provincial solar incentive within the past 18 months.
- This is interesting given this specific program type only contributes a maximum of 3 points to the province’s overall score, but shows that provinces with incentive programs have generally healthy solar markets (even when they expire).
- Canada’s sunniest province, Saskatchewan, is the lowest-ranked province in the country, mostly due to a recently-altered poor net metering program (SaskPower) and an almost complete lack of financing and incentive options.
- Alberta, known for being Canada’s oil & gas province, is one of the best province in the country for solar power – scoring high in almost every category. Alberta has high sunlight levels and energy needs, incoming PACE financing options, and solar rebate programs in some jurisdictions.
Methods: All primary and secondary research was conducted by energyhub.org Research. Last Major Update: November 6th, 2019.
The geography category is divided into two sections and scored as indicated:
- Solar Irradiation /3
- Total Energy Demand /2
- Total /5
One of the most important factors in determining the feasibility of generating energy from solar power is the amount of sunlight that is available on an annual basis. We report the amount of energy that can be produced from sunlight in units of kWh/kW/yr. This figure loosely translates to: “the amount of energy can be produced (in units of kWh) based on the size of the system (in units of kW) per year (yr)”.
Solar irradiation data can be used to accurately calculate the size of the solar system that you need to build (see the Provincial Solar Guides or the Sizing Section of our pricing page for details). We’ve also used this information to create our Solar Photovoltaic Maps.
This year we also added total energy use as an additional ranking factor. Provinces score higher when total energy use was high – indicating a larger need for energy generation and energy efficiency technologies.
- Nunavut, while having the northernmost communities in our assessment, receives more annual solar irradiation than 4 other provinces and territories. This is due primarily to extremely long summer days and low cloud cover relative to coastal provinces. However, it scored the lowest in this category due to a very low per capita energy demand.
- Southern Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba receive more solar irradiation than anywhere else in Canada. Coincidentally, these households in these prairie provinces are also among the highest energy users in the country, opening a great opportunity for renewables.
- April is the most productive month for solar power (Canada-wide average = 122kWh/kW/mo) while December is the least productive month (Canada-wide average = 46kWh/kW/mo). Monthly production breakdowns by province are available here.
Methods: Solar irradiation was calculated using the “municip_kWh” spreadsheet from the photovoltaic potential and insolation dataset from Natural Resources Canada. Average annual irradiation where the installation angle equals degrees latitude -15 from the top five populated cities in each province was used. A 25% efficiency loss factor was then applied before getting the final kWh/kW/yr number. Provincial household energy use was gathered from the Canada Energy Regulator and population data was collected from Statistics Canada.
The utility category was divided into three sections and scored as indicated:
- Interconnection Policy and Fees /4
- Average Variable Cost of Electricity /3
- Average Fixed Cost of Electricity /2
- Total /9
Net metering is almost always necessary for solar power as it allows homeowners to earn credits for excess energy sent back to the grid when production is high (summer), and then to use those credits during periods when production is low (winter). Provinces score higher when the reset period for the credits is long, when the maximum allowable system size is large, when it is possible to redeem excess credits for cash, and when credits earned equals the retail electricity rate.
In many cases, utilities charge fees during the process of connecting new solar systems to the grid. Provinces score lower depending on the amount and frequency of the fees charged. The most frequent fees are one-time fees for interconnection studies and for the installation of a bi-directional meter.
The price of electricity is an important factor when considering solar power as it determines the maximal amount of money that can be saved by switching. Fixed rates are also important as they do not disappear when homeowners stay connected to the grid for net metering. Therefore, provinces score higher when variable rates are high and fixed rates are low.
- Net metering and/or net billing is available in every province and territory. All provinces credit energy at the retail rate except for:
- Yukon Territory – electricity is purchased at $0.21/kWh – nearly double the subsidized retail rate
- Saskatchewan – electricity is purchased at $0.075/kWh – about half the retail rate
- Manitoba – electricity is purchased at $0.003949/kWh – approximately 1/3 the retail rate.
- The highest cost electricity (even at the subsidized rate) is in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, while the cheapest electricity is in provinces where hydro and nuclear sources are abundant: Quebec, Manitoba, Ontario, and British Columbia.
- The provinces where homeowners are charged the highest fixed rates for electricity are also the provinces where the energy market is competitive (Alberta and Ontario). See the fixed and variable electricity costs for every province here.
- Apart from the three Canadian Territories where size limits are all under 15kW, Quebec is the only province where the size limit for net-metered solar systems is less than 100kW – it has a limit of 20kW.
Methods: For non-competitive energy markets, information was gathered from provincial and utility websites. For competitive electricity markets, information was gathered from utility, regulator, and ISO websites.
The incentives category is divided into two sections and scored as indicated:
- Solar Rebates and Tax Credits /5
- Other Energy Incentives /2
- Total /7
Major incentives are one of the major factors that determine whether or not a homeowner switches to solar power as they have a reasonable impact on the total upfront cost of the system to be installed. Provinces score higher when major rebates and tax credits are widely available and large in amount.
An extra category was added this year for other energy incentives available to homeowners. These incentives are often leveraged around the same time of installing a solar system (smart thermostat rebates, insulation upgrades, LED light bulbs, etc).
A summary list of energy incentives including solar rebates and tax credits by province can be found on the Solar Incentives Pages.
- Incentives continue to be highly variable. 2019 has already seen large program losses (Alberta, Saskatchewan), small steps backwards (Nova Scotia), and new programs appearing (PEI).
- Alberta recently lost its provincial rebate but still ranks high with a half dozen municipalities offering incentives.
- Saskatchewan is the only Province/Territory in the country that does not have a major incentive program for energy efficiency technologies or home energy upgrades. Most other provinces have dozens of programs offered through a government agency (CleanBC, Energy Efficiency Alberta, Efficiency Manitoba, SaveONEnergy etc…)
Methods: Incentive and rebate information was collected from Natural Resources Canada, as well as from utility, government, and NGO websites across Canada.
Access to Solar
Access to solar is a brand new, but extremely important category that contributed to this year’s provincial rankings. This category was divided into four sections and scored as indicated:
- Cost of Installation /3
- Access to Installers /2
- PACE-Like Financing /2
- Other Financing Options /1
- Total /8
Cost remains a primary barrier to access for most homeowners and therefore provinces score lower when upfront costs are higher.
Financing options are important for solar power as most people don’t have the cash to pay for an entire system upfront. Provinces score the highest when energy-specific financing is available (banks, utilities, municipalities, etc.) or when costs can be financed through property tax (PACE) or utility bills.
Finally, we also assessed the general access to high quality solar installers. Provinces score the highest when homeowners have access to a high number of reputable installers.
- Innovating financing such as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) and On-Bill programs now exist in the majority of provinces but are implemented to highly varying degrees.
- PACE exists in Nova Scotia (full), Ontario (partial), Alberta (incoming), Yukon (partial), and the Northwest Territories (incoming).
- On-Bill financing exists in Manitoba (full), British Columbia (partial), and Newfoundland and Labrador (full).
- The average installation cost in Canada (before applicable rebates) is $3.07/Watt with the lowest priced province being Ontario ($2.28-2.78/Watt) and the highest priced being Nunavut and Newfoundland & Labrador ($3.50-4.50/Watt).
Methods: Cost of installation was calculated based on surveys and internal data and is representative of a grid-tied, roof-mounted, 7.5kW system. Access to installers was calculated using a ratio of available reputable installers to the population of the province. Financing information was gathered from provincial, municipal, utility, financial institution, and NGO websites.
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