How Solar PV Works with BC Hydro-Net Metering
The BC Hydro-Net Metering program allows for homeowners and business owners to
generate electricity to offset their electricity needs, using renewable energy sources such as
solar power, wind power and water power (micro-hydro).
“Net metering” generally means that at each billing period (e.g. every two months with BC
Hydro) the net consumption is used to create the bill. For example, in one billing period, if a
customer generating solar power were to export into the grid the same amount of power as
they used in that period (“net zero consumption”), the consumption-related charges for that
bill period would be as though the customer didn’t use any power from the grid. BC Hydro
net-metering is a better deal than most other utilities/provinces have in Canada for solar
photovoltaic (PV) power generating customers because of BC Hydro billing approach
attributes the same value to the energy used from the grid by customers and the energy
used by the grid generated by customers. In other areas with similar programs that allow
grid-connected power generation, such as in Alberta “micro-generation” program, the
utilities attribute a higher value to the energy used from the grid by customers than the
value of the energy used by the grid generated by customers.
Residential customers have a “conservation rate 1101” with BC Hydro that has a tiered
power price to encourage customers to use less energy. If a customer uses more than
1350kWh in a 2-month billing period (~675kWh/month), the portion of power
consumption above 1350kWh is billed at a higher price than the first 1350kWh. If a
customer uses enough power to reach the higher priced tier, then solar PV power generated
would reduce the energy costs at the higher tier price first, before reducing energy costs at
the lower price tier. Any excess (net-positive) solar power exported to the grid in the billing
period would be applied to future bills as kWh (not as $), which could reduce energy in both
of the higher and lower price tiers in those later months.
If a net-metering customer has a remaining excess generation credit at the end of the year
(customer’s net-metering anniversary year) then BC Hydro pays the customer for the excess
credit, at a rate of $9.99 cents/kWh.
For more energy rate details, see the summary table “2018 BC Hydro Electrical Energy Rates”.
BC Hydro-Net Metering Program Eligibility
The criteria for participating in the net-metering program with BC Hydro are:
● Power generation comes from a clean or renewable resource such as solar
photovoltaic (PV), wind power, or hydropower.
● Maximum power generation system size is 100kW, for example, 100kW solar
● The power generation system is sized to produce no more than the customer’s
annual power consumption.
● The solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation system must be under 100kW (PV
● The power generation system must be connected to the BC Hydro power
distribution grid. (Note: About 95% of power-grid customers in British Columbia
are BC Hydro customers. Outside the BC Hydro serviced areas are parts of the
Okanagan (including Kelowna) and the City of New Westminster.
Solar PV Economics with BC Hydro-Net Metering
Economics vary based on details like geographic location, array tilt, shading, electrical
service size, service voltage, and site electrical loads profile, but here are some sample
economics for adding solar PV for different billing rate structures with BC Hydro customers:
– Residential customers who typically consume most of their grid power in the first
tier energy price (e.g. customers who typically use less than 1350kWh each 2-month
billing period) could achieve marginal positive rates of return on investments, due
to relatively low energy rates in the first tier price, and the small scale of the system.
– Residential customers who typically consume most of their grid power in the second
tier energy price (e.g. customers who typically use more than 3500kWh each
2-month billing period) would have an attractive rate of return on investment as
their solar power generation would offset grid-power consumption at the higher
– Small-size business customers could achieve a very attractive rate of return on
investment by offsetting a relatively high power price and benefiting from a more
economical installation cost through economy of scale. There are some additional
unique opportunities available for small business customers that we’d be happy to
share with you. (Small General Service, <35kW demand).
– Medium-size business customers could achieve an attractive rate of return on
investment with a balance of moderate energy price, and installation costs
improving from economies of scale. (Medium General Service, 35kW-150kW
– Large-size business customers who are able to run their heaviest loads only when
the sun is shining to allow PV to shave the peak demand charge could achieve
a marginal positive rate of return on investment. Returns are lower due to the low
energy price per kWh for this size of customer. (Large General Service, >150kW
– Steve Gladwin