Solar Power in Quebec?


“It has been estimated that the sun provides as much energy in 15 minutes as humans use in a year.  By taking advantage of that with heating and electrical generation, we can work to end our dependence on fossil fuels.” – Mike Reynolds, Ecohome

In Canada, Ontario is the only province that offers strong financial incentives for homeowners to produce their own energy.  In the other provinces, the concept of switching to solar power is a noble idea, but it is not profitable.

Here in Quebec, about 90% of our energy needs are met using hydroelectric power, so we’re well ahead of the other provinces in the use of clean energy.  We also pay the lowest retail electricity prices in the country, so there is not much incentive to convert to solar power.  Currently, Revenue Quebec offers a new 20% tax credit (the RenoVert Tax Credit), a temporary tax credit introduced to encourage individuals to invest in recognized eco-friendly home renovation work that has a positive environmental impact or improves their dwelling’s energy efficiency.  The amount you can claim corresponds to 20% of the portion of your eligible expenses paid after March 17, 2016 and before March 31, 2018, that exceeds $2,500, up to a maximum tax credit of $10,000.  So while it may look good, the tax credit is a temporary measure and comes to an end in just a few months.

It costs roughly $10,500 to install a 10-panel 2.5KW solar power system on your roof, connected to Hydro Quebec’s electric grid – this is roughly the amount of panels that can fit on the average Canadian’s rooftop (obviously, if you live in the country, you can add as many panels as you need on your land, but if you are a city dweller your rooftop is the only possibility left for you).  While the average Quebec consumer uses 22,692 kWh per year, these 10 panels would provide you with 2,500 kWh per year, or slightly more than 10% of your annual consumption.  I’ve done the math:  if your monthly Hydro bill is $250 a month before you install the panels, and $225 a month after you install your panels, then you have spent $10,500 in order to save $300 a year.  At that rate, it would take you 35 years to pay off your renovation costs, or 28 years to pay them off if you’ve managed to take advantage of the RenoVert Tax Credit before March of next year.

In effect, the money you would save on your electricity bill comes from what Hydro Québec calls the “net metering option.”  This option allows you to feed your surplus power into the Hydro-Québec grid in exchange for credits in kilowatthours.

If you lived in Ontario, on the other hand, the Ontario government would pay you a guaranteed rate for the electricity you provide, enough to pay off your renovation costs within 5 years and begin to generate a passive income stream, earning you about $1700 per year for a 5KWh system.

So the bottom line?  I believe it will be long time before solar power becomes a viable option in Quebec.

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