Two-Year Lag in New Solar Rebate Leaves Manitoba Falling Behind
Manitobans will have to wait another two years for the return of rooftop solar rebates the province’s public utility withdrew in 2018. At least one installer says that’s too long a lag.
“Manitoba Hydro was criticized in 2018 for ending the two-year pilot program without indicating what will replace it, if anything,” CBC reports. “The utility left the future of the well-received program in the hands of a new Crown corporation called Efficiency Manitoba, which said in a recent report it would reinstate the incentive, but not before 2022.”
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Justin Phillips, CEO of Sycamore Energy, says the announcement is tantamount to “kicking the can down the road,” particularly in light of the province’s stated interest in saving energy.
“I think there’s a lot of well-meaning people with Efficiency Manitoba, with Manitoba Hydro, but they’re really playing it beyond safe,” he said. “This is really intended, as far as we can tell, to hit the reset button for solar in Manitoba, fully wipe the slate clean, flush out the companies who were doing it, who have been forced to leave the province or seek other means of revenue, and then start over.”
The three-year plan from Efficiency Manitoba, which must still be approved by the province’s Public Utilities Board, calls for two years to research the new program and coordinate it with staff workloads at Manitoba Hydro and the needs of the province’s power distribution system, CBC says. It gives no indication of what a new rebate program would look like.
“Rather than building on the successes of the solar pilot project, they’re really letting all of those gains go to waste,” Phillips said.
Efficiency Manitoba CEO Colleen Kuruluk said the goal was to get the program right. “The pilot project did cause a little bit of backlog in workloads, frustration with industry, and frustration with customers, and we don’t want to do that again,” she told CBC. “We want to make sure it’s put together well,” so “jumping into a program without really having thought of all the ins and outs is also not advisable.”
Phillips acknowledged the backlog, and suggested the previous incentive of $1 per watt for installations up to 200 kilowatts may have been too generous. But he warned that the lack of any incentive is setting the industry back and changing the profile of the customers he can work for.
“The market has shifted from solar being for the ‘everyman’ to being something that really is an architectural fascination or an innovative product,” he said.