75 people laid off since revamp of Sask. net-metering program, association says

The provincial Opposition and an energy industry association say jobs have been lost as a result of the Saskatchewan Party's "upending" of the net-metering program.

NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon called for the government to reverse its decision during question period earlier this week. 

"The Sask. Party has done nothing but let people down, and we're seeing the destructive effects their changes are having on Saskatchewan businesses and jobs every day," he said in a prepared statement. 

In September, the net-metering program — which allowed SaskPower customers to generate their own electricity with solar panels and receive credit for any excess power they generated — was halted. It was slated to run until 2021, or until a 16-megawatt cap was reached.

A "revamped" version of the program — which was panned by solar energy company CEOs — was relaunched in November. 

The Distributed Energy Association of Saskatchewan, an advocacy group for technologies in the community-scale energy space, conducted surveys of solar industry members since the changes to the net-metering program were announced in October.

In a prepared statement, the Distributed Energy Association of Saskatchewan said there has been an 84 per cent drop in requests for quotes for solar projects, and 75 people have been laid off in the solar industry by companies operating in Saskatchewan as a result of the change. 

It also found a 99 per cent drop in customers that are moving forward with projects under the new net metering program. 

"Saskatchewan is a perfect spot to foster growth in the solar industry because of the amount of sunlight it gets," Wascana Solar Co-operative director John Brazill said. "The suspension of the net-metering program is only hurting business and causing job loss in Saskatchewan." 

Environment Minister Dustin Duncan said SaskPower and other utilities looked at the net-metering program and needed changes to create a program that was financially sustainable for everyone.

Despite the job losses, Duncan said solar will continue to be a part of Saskatchewan's plans going forward. 

He said the province has found a company to build a 10-megawatt solar project in the province's southwest in the next year and has "gone to market" looking for someone to complete another 10-megawatt project.

"We're building solar on a large scale, but we also know that residential people, farms, they want to also have the opportunity to produce their own power and that's going to continue forward as well," Duncan said.