Although there are not many solar-powered buildings in Grand Forks at the present time, council is looking at adding net metering to the electrical utility regulatory bylaw.
Net metering is a process by which a person with solar panels would sell any extra energy collected back into the grid. The push for net metering came mainly from resident Roxanna Bolton, who is in the process of converting her house to solar power.
Bolton has been advocating for net metering in the city for several months. She is planning on adding solar panels to her residence in Grand Forks. Updating the utility bylaw is important as it updates many aspects of the previous bylaw, she said. However, Bolton doesn’t think the new bylaw goes far enough.
“After months of advocating, inclusion of the solar and net metering initiative is appreciated,” she said, “but the way it was presented in the agenda seemed fearfully reluctant. And the bylaw draft is very restrictive. The capacity is limited to 10kVA. FortisBC and BC Hydro started off small and have since up-sized to 50kW and 100kW, likely due to demand.”
Bolton added that using the term “kVA” is also confusing for people since “kW” (kilo Watts) is commonly used.
“10kVA at a power factor of 90 per cent translates to a capacity limit of only 9kW,” she said. “Is this what they are actually allowing? That would exclude even my own 9.1kW project which will only generate 75 per cent of my electricity requirements.”
She also added that the bylaw draft restricts net metering to residential only, excluding businesses and other non-residential customers such as schools.
“Unless we want to keep revisiting the bylaw, we must give it greater scope,” she said.
It’s not just about accommodating a resident, said Bolton. “We need to promote our community’s solar energy abundance by permitting interconnection with the electrical utility we are so fortunate to own, and do this via a robust program that we would be proud to promote.”
The amended bylaw will be given first, second and third reading at the regular council meeting on Oct. 6. Final reading is expected to be at the Oct. 20 meeting.
“Net metering has just been introduced as part of our electric utility rates and structure bylaw,” said Mayor Brian Taylor. “There will be an opportunity in the next little while to fine tune it and to give it first, second and third reading.”
Taylor said the bylaw’s amendment will allow homeowners to sell energy back to the grid.
“It’s a little more complicated in terms of what they need,” he said, “but, yes, what we’re setting up will allow an individual homeowner to net meter up to 4,000 kw/h in a year.”
Taylor said he believes the amendment will bring about more discussion regarding solar power.
The amendment states that the net metering service would be available for residential usage with solar (PV) installations of not more than 10 kVA (kilo volts). The homeowner would be responsible for the installation cost of a bi-directional meter. Energy in excess of the residence consumption would be purchased by the electrical utility at the residential sales rate.
Alex Love, electrical and electronics engineer for the city, said net metering has been on the radar for quite some time.
“Many electric utilities in North America have a net metering provision of some sort,” he said. “The reason this is being brought forward now is because the first customer with a strong interest in the Grand Forks electric service area, is preparing to move forward with a solar installation. Since the electric bylaw was being updated anyway, this was a good opportunity to also include a provision for residential solar photo voltaic installations.”