In 2016, Manitoba Hydro announced its Solar Energy Program, offering incentives and financial support for customers to adopt solar power to generate their electricity and sell excess energy to the Crown corporation. Almost three years later, the program needs a major overhaul.

The program was part of Hydro’s demand-side management plan to reduce energy use in the province and help customers reduce their bills. The program offered a subsidy of $1,000 per kilowatt of capacity for installations up to 200 kW, limited financing for up to 15 years, displacement of grid electricity, backup service and purchase of excess energy.

The program was launched on April 22, 2016, and Hydro stopped accepting new applications in May 2018.

There’s since been considerable public debate about the program and whether it should be renewed. My contribution to the debate concerns primarily the promises of displacement of grid electricity and backup service.

Hydro’s Solar Energy Program doesn’t reduce peak demand, results in solar generation adding only surplus power to Hydro’s system and drives up the utility’s operating costs at the expense of consumers in general.

Hydro’s legislated mandate is “to provide for the continuance of a supply of power adequate for the needs of the province, and to engage in and to promote economy and efficiency in the development, generation, transmission, distribution, supply, and end-use of power.” Manitoba authorities – government and Hydro – evaluating the Solar Energy Program should pay close attention to this directive from the Hydro Act.

There’s no apparent reason why there should be any subsidization of solar installations by Manitoba Hydro.

Customers wanting to generate part of their energy requirements by installing solar panels should pay for the panels and installation costs, and pay a fee covering Hydro’s costs of maintaining the capacity to provide backup power. And Hydro should value all solar generated power as excess energy currently valued at $.03253 per kWh.

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