Residential Solar Program FAQ

Change Homes for Climate Solar Program FAQ

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW BEFORE I APPLY FOR THE INCENTIVE?

How do I know if solar PV is right for my home?

There are a number of factors that impact a PV system’s performance. Work with a qualified solar contractor to understand if PV is the right choice for your home. 

Some factors to consider include: 

  • Orientation
  • Shading
  • Roof Condition
  • Household electrical consumption

How can I verify the claims my potential solar installer is making?

Please see the following consumer guides for information on how to select a solar installer and questions to ask:

I want to ensure that I qualify for the incentive before I purchase any products. Is there a way to do that?

Yes, customers may opt for pre-approval via changeforclimate.ca/solar 

Pre-approval is optional and allows customers/contractors to submit a list of planned products for purchase to ensure they qualify for the incentive and find out how much the incentive would be.

Please see the Terms and Conditions for details on eligible costs.

What is the average overall cost to install a solar system?

Solar PV installation costs vary considerably and are dependent on the system size (larger systems benefit from economies of scale), installation company, roof type and layout, and other factors.

The average total installed cost per watt (before incentives) has been $2.49/Watt under this program. The average total cost per system has been $18,891 prior to incentives. 

For example, a system that cost $17,500 at $2.50/Watt, prior to incentives, would now cost $14,700 with the $.40/Watt rebate, saving the homeowner $2,800.

The average Alberta home would require about a 6,000 watt system to go to “net-zero electricity”. This system at $2.50/watt would cost $15,000 before the rebate, and $12,600 after the rebate. 

As no home is the “average home”, we recommend contacting local solar providers for pricing information.

Will there be financing options offered for this program?

If an installed system is financed through a third-party solar contractor, it will still be eligible for the program. If the system is leased, it may be eligible for the program.

The City of Edmonton is aiming to develop the Clean Energy Improvement Program (CEIP), which will allow building owners to finance solar systems through a property tax mechanism. CEIP is also known as PACE financing. See the sections on PACE below for more information. Please contact us if you have more questions about CEIP. Please note CEIP is not yet active as of September 2020.

How much electricity can I generate from my solar PV system?

According to Alberta’s Micro-Generation Regulation, you may install enough solar modules to produce up to 100 per cent of your net annual energy consumption; however, other factors, like available roof space, may also limit the size of your PV system.

Speak with your solar installer if you plan to greatly change your electricity consumption in the near future (such as if you’ve purchased an electric vehicle) and would like to adjust your system accordingly. 

How am I compensated for exporting excess electricity to the grid?

Alberta’s Micro-Generation Regulation outlines how micro-generators are compensated by their wire services provider for sending their excess electricity to the grid. Generally you receive an on-bill credit for the power sent to the grid which is compensated at your retail rate. This is commonly referred to as net billing.

CONTRACTORS AND SOLAR PV INSTALLATION

How do I find a solar installer?

Hire a qualified solar provider listed on the Solar Providers Directory of either Solar Alberta or the Canadian Renewable Energy Association. If you need help choosing the right contractor for you, view these further resources:

When can I expect a Solar installer to evaluate my home for a solar pv system?

As soon as you call them. There is generally a small wait time to get an installer out to your home. We recommend that you get multiple quotes from reputable contractors.

Is there a qualified contractor list, like in some other jurisdictions?

Only contractors who are listed in the online directories of Solar Alberta or the Canadian Renewable Energy Association (CanREA) are qualified to participate in the City of Edmonton program, to ensure consumer protection and adherence to business codes of conduct.

What if I’m misinformed about incentive details by my contractor?

Solar Alberta, and the Canadian Renewable Energy Association (CanREA), both have complaint resolution and disciplinary processes for their listed contractor members. You can use this process to file a complaint.

The City of Edmonton and Inclime Inc. will not be responsible for program misrepresentation by contractors. 

You mentioned that systems must be installed by a “qualified installer” – what does that mean? Do they need to be registered or certified?

Solar installers must be on either the Solar Alberta or CanREA directory to be eligible to participate in the Change Homes for Climate Solar Program.

Photovoltaic systems must be installed by qualified workers.

    • In Alberta, solar PV installations must be completed by certified electricians, or registered apprentices working under the supervision of a certified electrician, that comply with the Electrician Trade Regulation 274/2000 and Apprenticeship and Industry Training Act, and any applicable trade regulations.
    • Some electricians have additional solar-specific design and installation certification via Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), or another equivalent solar specific certification program. This is not required of your installer, but electricians with additional training or certification in solar design and installation are available should you wish to hire one.
    • To find a qualified installer refer to the question above titled,“How do I find a solar installer?”

About Solar PV

Where can I find more information on solar technology, Alberta solar installers, or information on existing provincial solar programs in Edmonton?

There are multiple resources available online, including:

Is Edmonton a good place for solar PV?

According to Natural Resources Canada, Alberta has one of the best solar resources in Canada.

This page compares the solar resource potential in various municipalities in Canada. It is of note that Edmonton (with a potential of 1246 kWh/kW) has a similar annual solar resource potential to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (1253 kWh/kW), assuming south facing panels with a latitude tilt. (Data provided by Natural Resources Canada).

What is the difference between on-grid and off-grid systems?

On-grid or grid tied solar systems have a connection to the electrical grid. When your solar modules are exposed to light and start generating electricity, that electricity will flow to any loads you may have on your property such as appliances or lights. If you produce more energy than you are currently using, the excess will flow to the grid and will power loads elsewhere. You will be compensated with credit from your utility provider for the energy you put onto the grid. 

Off-grid solar systems are not tied to the grid and are a major source of energy for your off-grid property. The system may rely on batteries to store extra energy for nighttime and typically a backup diesel generator to generate energy during poor weather, as the array will generate little to no energy during these times. These systems have a higher cost (typically 2-3 times higher) as they tend to be larger and require a relatively large battery bank to store energy. Off-grid systems are not supported under this program.

How long will a solar system last?

The warranty on most solar modules and the corresponding goods and materials is 25 years. Modules do slowly degrade over time, typically at about 0.5% of the previous year’s capacity each year. This means that after 25 years you would expect the modules to produce at 88% of their original capacity. Typical warranties are for 80% of output after 25 years. There are solar modules installed in the 1970’s still working today.

How often do I need to clean my solar array of debris or snow?

The rain and wind usually does an adequate job of clearing leaves and dust (soiling) from the solar modules, while snow will often slide off in the winter. We do not advise accessing your roof to clear your solar array, unless debris from animals must be cleared away (ie: squirrels or pigeons). The amount of energy gained by cleaning the surface of grid-tied systems is typically not worth the risk of climbing on your roof.

If you have a ground mounted system with unobstructed access to the modules you can clean them to generate the largest amount of energy. Off-grid system owners will often clean their modules to maximize production.

Will I still have energy with a solar system during a power outage?

The solar system is installed with a switch that will instantly disconnect if it does not sense electricity from the grid during a power outage. This is to ensure the safety of emergency workers who assume all energy is off during a power outage. 

There are some systems which allow electricity to be provided during an outage, but ask a solar professional for their opinion on the benefits and costs of such systems to see if they are right for you. 

Other Considerations:

  • Is your roof due for a replacement?

If your roof looks due for a replacement ask your solar installer for a recommendation about replacement of your roof and which roof type will be best with your solar installation. Shingles are well protected underneath a solar system and will have an extended lifetime.

  • House Insurance

Insurance companies vary greatly in how they react to solar installations. Some insurance providers refuse to insure a home with solar, while others may insure your home and solar system at no additional cost. Ask your installer and other solar system owners about their experiences with insurance providers. When in doubt, just shop around and don’t be afraid to switch insurance providers.

QUESTIONS ABOUT MICROGENERATION (SMALL SCALE SOLAR)

What is micro-generation?

  • Micro-generation is the production of electricity on a small-scale, using renewable and alternative energy sources, typically solar and wind, by individual homeowners and small businesses, as well as municipal and community buildings to meet their electricity needs.
  • Alberta has the Micro-generation regulation that explains micro-generation for Albertans. Homeowners and businesses are able to install micro-generating units on their homes and facilities to supply their own electricity needs.
  • Other provincial regulations govern non micro-generation solar PV systems.

What is Alberta’s Micro-Generation Regulation? How does it impact my participation in the Change Homes for Climate Solar Program?

The Micro-Generation Regulation, established in 2008, allows Albertans to meet their own electricity needs by generating electricity from renewable or alternative energy sources. In order to qualify for an incentive, applicants must be an approved micro-generator under Alberta’s Micro-Generation Regulation.

Under the regulation, micro-generators receive credits for the excess electricity that they produce and export back to the grid.

  • Typically solar providers will take care of permitting processes for you.
  • Albertans who want to become a micro-generator must apply to their distribution company (also known as the wire service provider) to get approval to connect and operate a generating unit.
  • The Utilities Consumer Advocate at 310-4-UCA maintains a list of retailers and distributors for Alberta.
  • You can also find your company on your electricity bill.

For more information on Alberta’s Micro-generation Regulation, please visit this link.

PROGRAM RULES

Why can’t I install the system myself?

Self-installed solar photovoltaic systems will not be eligible for this program.

A qualified installer-led program is the best way to ensure the work completed meets safety regulations, code expectations and industry best practices.

If your own business is a “qualified installer”, you may hire your own business and install the system on your home.

ENVIRONMENTAL ATTRIBUTES

What is an environmental attribute in the context of solar PV systems?

Environmental attributes are defined as potential benefits that arise from the creation of renewable energy as a displacement for electricity generated by non-renewable sources. The attribute becomes the reduction in Greenhouse Gases or air emissions that would otherwise have happened had non-renewable sourced electricity been used. The environmental attributes can also be defined as products that are created or otherwise arise from the renewable energy project, including but not limited to renewable energy certificates (REC), solar renewable energy certificates (SREC), or carbon offset credits (collectively the “attributes”). See terms and conditions section 8.4, “Environmental Attributes or Products” for more information. 

What happens to the environmental attributes generated from solar PV projects that have received incentive funding from this program?

The Applicant agrees to convey ownership to City of Edmonton, or its successors, all environmental attributes and environmental products that are created or otherwise arises from this project in any jurisdiction, including but not limited to renewable energy certificates, solar renewable energy certificates, or carbon offset credits.  The City of Edmonton retains and retires these attributes.

All environmental attributes arising from solar PV projects that have received this incentive funding are not to be monetized. This is one of the terms of participating in the program. See terms and conditions section 8.4, “Environmental Attributes or Products”.

Why may I not monetize the environmental attributes from the solar PV projects that have received this funding?

To account for the emission reductions created by the program, the City of Edmonton retains and retires these environmental attributes. Therefore, these carbon reductions / environmental attributes cannot be sold to a third-party (e.g. as a REC or carbon offset) to account for their own emission reduction or renewable energy targets as this may nullify or reduce the net emission reductions that the program generates. The City accounts for the environmental attributes from the solar PV projects that have received funding, as a contribution to meeting our commitments of emissions reductions outlined in the Energy Transition Strategy, and other applicable strategies. 

How can an owner of a solar PV system monetize or trade their environmental attributes?

If you would like to receive this incentive payment to help offset the cost of your solar installation, you cannot further develop your system’s environmental attributes. See terms and conditions section 8.4, “Environmental Attributes or Products” for more information.

If you would like to monetize your environmental attributes you may do so, but you are not eligible for the incentive.

PROGRAM RESULTS

What Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reductions can Edmontonians expect from this program?

From the Change Homes for Climate Solar Program, the average lifetime GHG reduction per home has been 142.1 Tonnes of C02 equivalent. The total amount reduced (lifetime GHG savings of all systems) as of June 20, 2019, was around 44,500 tonnes. This is the equivalent of removing nearly 50,000 cars from the road for one year. 

Please contact us if you have further questions about GHG reductions.

How much solar energy do you anticipate will be generated from this program?

The Change Homes for Climate Residential Solar Program is expected to result in approximately 4.7 MW of installed capacity.

PROGRAM ADMINISTRATION DETAILS

Solar is only available to certain demographics of people who can afford it. What is the City doing for those who can’t afford the upfront cost of solar?

This incentive is meant to broaden the appeal of solar to a wider audience of Edmontonians by bringing down the upfront cost. However, we understand the high upfront cost is still a barrier for many, even though it is an affordable long-term source of electricity for your home. 

These solar programs are only the first attempt to increase solar system participation for homeowners. Future programs are also being developed to further increase accessibility of solar energy to the broader public. 

Also, everyone benefits when any Edmontonian installs solar because it brings down our collective carbon footprint as a City; each action to reduce emissions helps to stabilize our climate and improve our air quality.

According to IRENA, the costs of solar decline rapidly as more capacity is added to the market. Because the upfront costs are not affordable to all, greater investment is needed in the solar market by those who can afford it, to bring down the costs for everyone else.

I have heard about PACE or Alberta’s Clean Energy Improvement Program; should I wait until this program exists to get solar?

PACE, as it is referred to in many US jurisdictions, stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy. Alberta’s version of PACE is called the Clean Energy Improvement Program (CEIP). Once established, CEIP will make it more affordable for Albertans to upgrade their properties without having to put money down. The cost of the upgrade will be recovered through their property taxes. This program should help overcome another common barrier: homeowners may have a long financing term on a system, but move after only a few years. With CEIP, the system could continue to be paid down by the new homeowner. 

A CEIP program will take time to be enabled. You can also investigate other financing options. There is no launch date planned yet for the CEIP program. Once the program is launched it will be phased in, beginning with only a small number of participants.

Why is the City of Edmonton offering this program?

As part of the City of Edmonton Community Energy Transition Strategy, the City is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Residential buildings are responsible for approximately 20% of Edmonton’s greenhouse gas emissions. By replacing traditional energy generation with solar generation, we lower the need for more carbon intensive energy generation. 

Has the City launched a Solar program before? How is this one any different?

Yes, the City had another program in 2011. It was very limited to the number of participants and had a higher incentive rate. Since then the price of solar has dropped dramatically, as has the incentive rate.

Who is delivering the program? Do they have experience running programs like this?

InClime Solutions Inc. is the Canadian subsidiary of InClime, a leading solar program management company. InClime and the InClime team have been helping launch and run solar incentive programs since 2008.

They currently run renewable or energy efficiency programs in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Delaware, and Missouri as well as the Brazeau County Solar Incentive. The also ran the Residential Commercial Solar Program for the province of Alberta. InClime Solutions was selected to deliver that program using an open, competitive RFP process.

What is the purpose of hiring a program delivery contractor?

Hiring an expert program delivery contractor ensures that detailed program design and delivery occurs in an effective and prompt manner on behalf of the City of Edmonton. Further, it saves cost by leveraging the experience and assets already developed to run other incentive programs.

EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN SOLAR

Are there employment opportunities in the renewable energy or solar industries?

Energy efficiency programs are among the lowest cost ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy efficiency programs will create jobs in construction and energy services and grow future-ready industries such as solar generation.

Part of the mandate for the City of Edmonton is to promote the energy efficiency and community energy services industry in Edmonton so it is anticipated there will be employment in many different areas of this emerging field.

Contact Solar Alberta or the Canadian Renewable Energy Association to learn more about employment opportunities in this industry.