Solar Net Metering in Saskatchewan

Moustafa YoussefBlog

Solar Net Metering

Saskatchewan has a world-class solar potential. Actually Regina and Saskatoon’s solar potential are higher than Calgary and Edmonton. There are two ways to go solar in Saskatchewan (going off the grid is the third way), namely net metering and the Small Power Producers Program. Both programs offer Saskatchewan homeowners, businesses, farmers and developers the opportunity to reduce their living and operating costs by investing in green and local power generation. Let’s look at solar net metering in Saskatchewan.

Net Metering

Net-metering is a type of settlement that many utilities use to credit solar generators for their solar energy. It equates the energy a service imports from the grid to the solar energy that is exported to it. So for example if over a month a home consumed 500kilowatt-hours of electrical energy (kWh) from the grid and exported 100kWh, then the homeowners will only be charged 400kWh. Therefore the solar power system generates revenue at the same rate as to which Saskpower charges for consumption. These rates are printed on the bill and are available on Saskpower’s website. Participants of the program can decide the size of the system based on their goals, budget, and other aspects.

Net-Metering Rebate

Saskpower is also offering a 20% rebate on  cost of installation up to $20,000. Let’s look at an example of how a solar power system will perform in Saskatchewan.

Saskpower Net Metering

During the day, solar energy feeds the loads in the building/service. Any excess energy is transmitted to the grid through a bidirectional meter to do usefulwork elsewhere. Appliances draw power from Saskpower at night, cloudy days or whenever there isn’t enough solar power.

Example of Solar Net Metering in Saskatchewan

Let’s say a shop consumes about 2,000 kWh per month and its owner is considering installing solar on the shop’s roof.  The owner lives in an urban area and so their Small Commercial Rates incur 13.2 cents per kWh for the first 14,500kWh consumed per month, so they pay about $400 per month for their energy consumption.

The owner is considering installing a six thousand watt system (or three kilowatt for short) to take up half the available viable roof space. The system is expected to produce an average 630kWh per month. This means that on an average month their consumption will be reduced to 1,370kWh.

The system will produce 630kWh of solar energy every month which will either feed the shop’s loads or go to the grid to do useful work elsewhere in the neighbourhood. In either case the energy generated effectively reduces the shop’s consumption at the consumption rate of 13.4c/kWh, which means the owner will save an average $84 per month or $1,000 per year.

The system’s payback depends essentially on three factors 1)how much sunlight the system receives 2) cost of installing the system, 3) future cost of energy. As you can imagine, the higher Saskpower’s rate are in the future, the faster the system’s payback will be. Let’s take an example.

Let’s say the shop owner installed the six kilowatt system for a total cost $16,000. After rebate the total cost is $12,000. This means that at current rates the payback is 8.3% or 12 years.


Rebates for Solar Installations in Alberta

Moustafa YoussefBlog


The government of Alberta has announced that it will be investing 36 million dollars into residential and commercial solar power in the province.  The money is collected from the carbon levy and will help Albertan homeowners and businesses to adopt a solar power system. The incentive takes the shape of a rebate on the cost of installation, reducing the total cost by between 25-33%. This incentive is estimated to quadruple the existing solar capacity in the province.

Rebates for solar installations for homes, businesses and non-profits

Energy Efficiency Alberta is offering a 75 cents per watt rebate on the cost of installation. The size of a PV system is measured by its capacity with units of power, W.

Residential systems have a capacity around 2-10,000W or 10kW, and have an installation cost of around $3 per watt.

For a 3kW,  the rebate will reduce the installation cost by around $2,250.

Neighbour Power is a turn-key provider which handle all aspects of your system’s realizing including the rebate process.  Please fill out the form below to obtain a proper site assessment.


Solar in a deregulated power market

Moustafa YoussefBlog

solar affect power prices merit order

Alberta has a market for the supply of wholesale electricity. Prices vary with supply and demand. All other provinces but Ontario have a utility that is responsible for generating as well as delivering electricity and maintaining its infrastructure. In Alberta these tasks are the business of private generators (e.g. TransAlta, Enmax Energy) and wires owners (e.g Altalink, Fortis, Enmax Power), and there is an independent body mandated by Alberta Utilities Commission, called the Alberta Electric System Operator, that manages the grid and price of power. In this blog post we’ll go over how power prices are determined, and how solar and renewables in general affect a deregulated power market.

Alberta has an energy-only power market, which means that generators only collect revenue from generating electrical energy. The price of wholesale electricity  is determined in real time by a merit order as shown below. Much like with any supply-demand curve, prices (y axis) are put in ascending order alongside respective generator capacity (x axis), and the point to which the supply and demand curves intersect determines the clearing/market price and clearing capacity. This happens every minute ensuring that demand is always met and consumers are getting the lowest cost for electrical energy. Generators on the left of the intersection point will be dispatched because their offering price is less than what the market established. For example a natural gas power plant can put up 30MW for $15/MWh from 3pm to 4pm. If at 2:59pm the price of power happens to be higher then it will be dispatched.

solar deregulated power market merit order

Renewable generators have no fuel costs and therefore can afford to sell power at any rate. If they are generating power they want it to be sold immediately. Therefore they will always be the cheapest generators on the supply curve. On the other hand fossil fired generators such as coal and natural gas have considerable operating costs and will bid their capacity at a rate that’s economically sustainable. Baseload generators will be operating for most of the time and will be found more towards the left and centre of the curve while peaker plants as their name suggests are only dispatched when market prices occasionally spike.

Supply demand curves are not new. The genius of this system however is that it uses price signals to balance a highly sophisticated circuit in real-time. Generation-demand have to always be in balance otherwise power quality will deteriorate or worse cause power outages which are expensive and just unacceptable.  Unlike a potato market where you get to meet potato farmers, look over a variety of potatoes or even consider substitutes, electricity is critical and its delivery must be anonymous and unconditional – power is transmitted to a pool/grid that everybody draws from. Electrons are electrons are electrons.

Like other energy commodities, consumption is independent of price. We flick switches, cook dinner, warm our homes whenever we need. System operators such as AESO rely on forecasting techniques to predict demand to ensure the system is prepared to meet demand both in real-time, as well as short and long term well being of the system.

Let’s take an example. Let’s say we have a grid that has a total of 250MW of generation assets – 100MW of solar, 50MW of coal and 100MW of gas, and their respective asking prices are $0/MWh, $30/MWh and $40/MWh. Let’s say that the demand is 100MW and the solar farm is generating 80% of its capacity or 80MW. Based on the generators’ merit order, 80MW of solar and 20MW of coal will be dispatched. Because coal is the last generator to be dispatched, the market price will equal its bidding price of $30, which all cleared generators will receive.

solar deregulated power market merit order

Merit order with 100MW of demand, 80MW of solar and 20MW of coal

Although the solar generator is willing to dispatch power for as low as $0/MWh, they receive the clearing price of $30/MWh. The owners of the solar farm will generate revenue of (80MW x $30/MWh) $2400 for every hour the system is dispatched. The gas generator will be standing reserve because its asking price is higher than the clearing price. If demand were to grow by 20MW, the coal generator will increase its dispatch by 20MW to make up for it. If demand were to increase beyond 130MW the gas generator will fire up and the clearing price will be $40/MWh, and then all three generators will receive $40/MWh.

Let’s suppose it’s getting darker and the solar farm is only putting out 20MW but demand is still at 100MW.  The supply curve will be shorter because the solar farm is generating less power. The dispatchable coal and gas generators will now have to increase their output by 80MW. As can be seen below this causes the market price to increase to signal to the natural gas generator to dispatch their power. Although the solar generator is supplying less power, they are receiving it at a higher rate because the clearing price is higher – same goes for the coal power plant.

Merit order with 100MW of demand, 80MW of solar and 20MW of coal. Clearing price is now $40/MWh

How does solar affect a deregulated power market?

As we saw above, renewable generation facilities are always dispatched because of their low marginal costs and they will accept whatever the market price is, hence they’re sometimes referred to as price takers. However as solar and wind capacities increase so does their synchronized impact on the clearing price. For example, in Alberta we sometimes notice how times of high wind can cause the price of power to drop. Wind generators are starting to act more and more like price setters. Large utility generators such as Calgary’s Shepard combined cycle natural gas plant also behave as price setter because of the considerable space they occupy on the left side of the curve. If you go to to monitor the grid’s load and clearing price, you can sometimes see how an expected shutdown of a large dispatched generator can cause the price of power to spike. In Alberta, the clearing price can be as high as $999.99/MWh, and as low as $0/MWh.

Example of a merit order showing different marginal costs

Example of a merit order showing different marginal costs

From energy-only market to energy and capacity markets

The Alberta power market has been in the news for the past couple of months as the province gears up for its plans to phase out coal by 2030 with renewables and natural gas. Some called into question whether Alberta’s energy-only power market will be able to attract needed investments in generation given the historic low power prices. Generators have been enjoying relatively high prices in the past which seemed to be a sufficient signal to build more capacity, but now that there is a glut of electricity AESO has recommended to introduce capacity payments which means that on-top of the revenue made on selling energy, generators will also collect revenue for being available.