Smart meters and time-of-use pricing are always well-read stories because there’s true division within the general public on whether smart meters are consumer-friendly gadgets that encourage conservation or utility-friendly devices that make it easier to gouge consumers. See my story in the Toronto Star from Friday. My take is that electricity prices are going up whether we get smart meters or not, and that smart meters — and the applications they enable — offer households a way to shift and even lower their electricity use to buffer the impact of rising prices. The mistake — and again, just my view — is that smart meters have been improperly marketed to consumers as some kind of sexy wonder tool that will help them lower their bills. Instead, utilities should have downplayed the introduction and simply moved ahead with their installation as part of a less exciting grid modernization play — equivalent to a telecom company upgrading from analog to digital networks so that, down the road, new services can be offered to customers. Customers don’t care about the bandwidth, they just care about the handsets and what they can do.
By positioning smart meters as more of an infrastructure play the cost of deployment can be simply incorporated into annual capital budgets and households are more resigned to the fact that getting the new device is mandatory. Let’s face it, initially smart meters are about helping utilities manage their networks better — i.e. they can pinpoint problems and do more detailed analysis of individual household, neighbourhood, and community power consumption, improving system planning and maintenance operations and preparing utilities for increased distributed generation in their service territories.
By making this seem like some gift to consumers, as has been done, utilities open themselves up to consumers expecting certain results and wanting the option of getting or not getting the smart meter. Continue reading Time-of-use pricing: Will it undermine solar domestic hot water programs?
Solar domestic hot-water systems don’t grab as many headlines, probably because they’re not considered as high-tech as their solar PV cousins, where science is pushing the boundaries of sunlight-to-electricity conversion. I’m always surprised that residential solar thermal systems don’t get much attention in the United States, particularly in the south where many homes have swimming pools (that need heating) and where the sun shines warm all year, making the payback dramatically better than PV. In Canada, where the conditions are less ideal, we seem for some strange reason to have a greater appreciation for rooftop solar thermal systems, and indeed, have many startups, such as EnerWorks, and academics spending considerable time improving on the technology.
Now, it seems, there’s a much bigger push going on to put solar thermal on Canadian rooftops. Just this week, natural gas distribution giant Enbridge announced a partnership with green electricity retailer Bullfrog Power that is targeting the installation of 1,200 residential solar thermal systems in Ontario over the next two years. Continue reading Major gas utility warms up to residential solar thermal
If you’re looking for an up-to-date breakdown of the solar industry in Canada and the jobs that are expected to be created in the coming years, check out this labour survey by Kelly Sears Consulting Group, which was commissioned by the Canadian Solar Industries Association and Canada’s Electricity Sector Council.
- Doubling of jobs by 2011.
- Industry shortage of installers right now.
- By 2011 there will also be a shortage of system designers, project managers and engineers.
- Recommendation to increase training and relevant curricula.
My guess is that most of these shortages and job opportunities will be created in Ontario, given the province’s Green Energy Act and progressive feed-in tariff program.
The Canadian government boosted its incentives for home energy retrofits yesterday by 25 per cent for most items, which the Ontario government said it would match. It’s all part of an effort to stimulate “green” home renovations as part of a larger effort to kickstart economic activity.
I said “most” items because solar thermal hot water systems got an even greater boost. The current rebate is $500 from the federal government, matched by a further $500 from Ontario. The feds increased its rebate dramatically to $1,250. So if Ontario matches, as it says it will, that will mean anyone who purchases and installs a residential solar hot water system will get $2,500 back. Not bad, considering you can get a system for as low as $6,000.
Expect more “thermal” and energy efficiency announcements from Ontario in the coming weeks. Here’s my article in the Star if you want some more details.
The City of Toronto has awarded contracts to equip 20 municipal facilities with solar thermal equipment that will provide heat to buildings. But instead of owning the systems, the city is only purchasing the heat energy to offset the use of fossil fuels. Fifteen of the sites will have systems built, owned and operated by Mondial Energy Inc., while the remaining five go to CC Solar Inc. — both companies from Toronto. These “solar utilities” have struck 20-year heat purchase agreements with the city, replicating a model that has worked for companies like SunEdison for the deployment of solar PV systems. It’s believed to be the largest solar *thermal* utility contract signed with a major North American municipality.
This just in: Mondial has also announced it is one of two solar utilities chosen by the State of Wisconsin to supply solar heat energy to government buildings, including sites at the University of Wisconsin and state correctional institutions. It’s being touted as the first initiative of its kind at a state level.