Meter needed for solar panel function takes more than a year to get installed

·4 min read
Judith Seymore has 37 solar panels, but has been waiting for more than a year to use them because of N.B. Power's delay in providing bi-directional meters. (Judith Seymour/ Submitted - image credit)
Judith Seymore has 37 solar panels, but has been waiting for more than a year to use them because of N.B. Power's delay in providing bi-directional meters. (Judith Seymour/ Submitted - image credit)

Judith Seymour of Estey's Bridge was excited to do her part for the environment, so she started the process to install $40 000 worth of solar panels in the spring of 2021.

A year after they were installed, Seymour still can't use them.

That's because N.B. power has delayed the installation of a "bi-directional meter." Without that meter, Seymour can't be part of the net metering program from N.B. Power for renewable energy.

Net metering allows the customer to supply power to the grid as well as receive it. Just like a bank account, the amount of electricity that is used and supplied is tracked by N.B. Power and the customer is billed for the 'net' metered amount of energy consumed.

In its solar panel metering application package, NB Power says "It's important that the renewable energy system is not turned on before a bi-directional meter is installed. Most standard meters used today cannot account for the energy sent back to the grid"

In order to get a bi-directional meter, the application must be approved and the department of public safety has to inspect and approve the installed system and notify N.B. Power in writing.

Seymour knew this and the project was approved, but she didn't think it would take a year to install.

"That's pretty frustrating. And it's pretty disappointing," she said. "N.B. Power is a Crown corporation owned by our provincial government, who claims to be pretty interested in supporting green energy products and processes. And so the bottleneck rests there."

Judith Seymour/ Submitted
Judith Seymour/ Submitted

N.B. Power said supply issues are to blame for the delay, in an email statement.

"We have had challenges in obtaining the necessary meters to support increasing net metering requests recently. This is due to global supply constraints that have been prevalent in the electronic markets world-wide."

"We are working diligently to secure meters and expect to have this issue resolved in the next couple weeks.  We appreciate our customers' patience."

Seymour said if she knew about the delays beforehand, she might have gone in a different direction.

"I might have looked for another project. I'm so excited about solar power and I still want to see it make a difference."

According to EnergyHub, New Brunswick ranks tenth in the country for installing solar power systems for financing options and net metering policy.

Solar panel sales are also high in the summer, and requests increase by almost 10 times,  said Mark McCann, owner of Solar Solutions, a solar panel installation company.

McCann said with the climbing costs of power, the choice of renewable energy also becomes more popular.

"The more the rates for power go up, the more people call in. So it's an upward trend. If you ordered 300 meters this year, it's probably a good idea not to just order 300 next year, but maybe order 600 or 1200."

Seymour said the spike in sales is predictable, so she expected preparation from N.B. Power.

"I don't think it would be a big secret that the biggest part of solar installations happened in the summer. So they probably could have predicted how much business or how much increased business, they might have had the forethought to, you know, stock up during the winter."

N.B. Power has run out of meters in both of the past two years, according to McCann. There is also a slow response for approval from N.B. Power, he said, which delays the whole process of installation, resulting in some of McCann's workers installing solar panels on slippery roofs in the winter months.

"Everything slows down, of course, in the wintertime with bulky jackets and big gloves…you're probably way over on your labour costs because, it just takes longer with your set up," he said,

Seymour said it would likely take another 10 weeks before she can get the meter installed, but hopes it will  be sooner so she can start using her solar panels.

"It's kind of a big pain but… it'll be pretty exciting when I get to hook it up, that's for sure."

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