Solar Power Canada 2019

(click on your province below to access your complete solar guide)

Provincial Solar Power Rankings

Every year since 2018, has ranked every province and territory in Canada to determine the relative feasibility for homeowners to install solar power on their property.

Overall Provincial Solar Rankings

Building off last year’s success, several new scoring sections were added for this year’s rankings. Sections were divided into 4 main categories and scored as indicated:

Solar energy incentives continue to play a key role in making solar power feasible. In fact, the National Energy Board reports solar payback is only possible in Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island without the use of incentives. And although market prices for installations naturally adapt to ensure payback is possible, the point remains clear – incentives make solar economical.

The amount of energy that can be produced by a photovoltaic system is ultimately dependent on the amount of sunlight that the panels receive and the need for solar power is driven by the use of energy itself. The Geography category evaluated both supply and demand factors of solar power.

The role that Utilities play in determining the feasibility of solar power is critical. In this category, a number of factors were scored that affect solar payback including variable electricity rates, fixed monthly utility costs, solar setup fees, and net metering policy.

Access to solar power is a brand new category that was added for the 2019 solar rankings. It’s composed of 4 subsections that evaluate the accessibility of solar power to homeowners based on upfront costs, financing options, and access to reputable installation companies.

Major Findings:

  • Seven out of the top eight scoring provinces have major provincial solar incentive programs. This is interesting given these programs only contributed at maximum of 3 points to the province’s overall score.
  • Canada’s third sunniest province, Manitoba, is one of the lowest ranked provinces in the country. It scores tied for 10th mostly because of a very poor microgeneration/net billing program.
  • Alberta, Canada’s oil & gas province, is by far the best province in the country for solar power – scoring near perfect marks in every category. This is due primarily to an abundance of solar incentive programs, high sunlight levels, high energy needs, low installation prices, PACE financing options, and high access to reputable installers.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador is not just ranked the worst province in the Country for solar power – it also appears to be experiencing significant political lobbying against the distributed energy industry that will jeopardize its feasibility for years to come.

Methods: All primary and secondary research was conducted by Research from December 2018 and January 2019. Data collection is ongoing.

Solar Incentives

Solar Energy and Energy Efficiency Incentives Canada

The incentives category was divided into two sections and scored as indicated:

  • Rebates and Tax Credits /3
  • Other Solar and Energy Incentives /2
  • Total /5

Major incentives are usually one of the major factors that determine whether or not a homeowner switches to solar power as they have a large impact on the total upfront cost of the system to be installed. Provinces scored higher when major rebates and tax credits were widely available and large in amount.

An extra category was added this year for other solar and energy incentives available to homeowners. These incentives are often issued through specific utilities and municipalities within the province.

A summary list of energy incentives including solar rebates and tax credits by province can be found on the Solar Incentives Page.

Major Findings:

  • Alberta is the most abundant province for solar incentives with the Province and a half dozen municipalities offering cash rebates.
  • Saskatchewan is the only Province/Territory in the country that does not have a major incentive program for energy efficiency technologies and home upgrades.

Methods: Incentive and rebate information was collected from Natural Resources Canada, as well as from provincial government, municipality, utility, ISO, and NGO websites across Canada.


Solar Irradiation and Energy Use Canada

The geography category was 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 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 solar system that you need to build (see your Provincial Solar Guide 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 scored higher when total energy use was high – indicating a larger need for energy generation and energy efficiency technologies.

Major Findings:

  • Nunavut, while having the northernmost communities in our assessment, receives more annual solar irradiation than Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island. This is due primarily to extremely long summer days and low cloud cover relative to coastal provinces.
  • Southern Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba receive more solar irradiation than anywhere else in Canada. Coincidentally, households in these three prairie provinces are also the largest consumers of energy.
  • April is the most productive month for solar power (Canada average = 1423kWh/kW/yr) while December is the least productive month (Canada average = 301kWh/kW/yr)

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 from 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 Statistics Canada and territory energy use was calculated using the per capita usage rates provided by the National Energy Board.


Electricity and Solar Setup Fees Canada

The geography category was divided into four sections and scored as indicated:

  • Average Variable Cost of Electricity /2
  • Average Fixed Cost of Electricity /2
  • Net Metering Policy /2
  • Net Meter and Interconnection Fees /1
  • Total /7

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 scored higher when variable rates were high and fixed rates were low.

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 scored higher when the reset period for the credits was long, when the maximum allowable system size was large, and when it was possible to redeem excess credits for cash.

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.

Major Findings:

  • Net metering and microgeneration/net billing is available in every province and territory. All net metering provinces credit electricity produced at the retail rate. The three net billing provinces are:
    • Alberta – electricity is purchased at retail rate
    • Yukon Territory – electricity is purchased at $0.21/kWh – nearly double the subsidized retail rate
    • Manitoba – electricity is purchased at $0.00325/kWh – approximately 1/3 the retail rate. On-grid solar is therefore almost completely infeasible in Manitoba with respect to utility factors
  • The highest cost electricity (even at the subsidized rate) is in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut – due mostly to access constraints, while the cheapest electricity is in provinces where hydro and nuclear electricity is 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).
  • Apart from the three Canadian Territories, Quebec is the only province where the size limit for net metered solar systems is less than 100kW. Quebec has set a limit of 20kW.

Methods: For non-competetive energy markets, information was gathered from provincial and utility websites. For competitive electricity markets, information was gathered from ISO, regulator, and utility websites.

Access to Solar

Solar Cost Financing and Installer Access

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 Financing /2
  • Other Financing Options /1
  • Total /8

Cost remains a primary barrier to access for most homeowners and therefore provinces scored lower when upfront costs were higher.

Financing options are important for solar power as most people don’t have the cash to pay for an entire system upfront. Mechanisms whereby costs can be added to property tax (PACE) or financed through other sources (banks, utilities, municipalities, etc.) allowed provinces to achieve the highest scores.

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.

Major Findings:

  • While PACE and/or PACE-like programs exists in Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and the Yukon Territory; Nova Scotia and the Yukon Territory are the only province where PACE financing is actually accessible to most homeowners.
  • British Columbia, Manitoba, and Newfoundland have on-bill financing options allowing homeowners to finance the cost of energy upgrades through their electricity bill.
  • The Northwest Territories is one of the highest overall ranked provinces in Canada, yet it scores among the lowest for access to installation companies.
  • 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 installer surveys for a grid-tied, roof-mounted, 7.5kW system. Cost range was adjusted based on number of responses from each province. 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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#3 Saskatchewan (tied)

#6 Québec (tied)

#10 Manitoba (tied)

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Majid Rahimi

The average cost figures provided here are based on W-DC or W-AC