Kootenay Solar Commonly Asked Questions

The high level of interest in solar in the Kootenay brings Dandelion Renewables to this beautiful area frequently. In this blog, I will cover the most commonly asked questions related to solar power.

Firstly, the entire Kootenay area is divided between 3 utility companies: Nelson Hydro, Fortis BC and BC Hydro. Each of the companies has slightly different Net Metering rules.

Nelson Hydro Solar:

Nelson Hydro service territory covers the following communities: City of Nelson, Harrop, Proctor, Balfour and shores of the West Arm of Kootenay Lake. Nelson Hydro is the only utility in BC that currently still pays the total retail electricity rate for the excess of the annual solar energy sold back to the grid. Net Metering systems are limited to 25KW AC.

Crediting renewable energy at the full retail rate is a controversial topic for the Nelson area. The opponents of solar power in Nelson argue that solar credits shall be compensated at a wholesale rate or the avoided utility cost. They also blame that a minor share of solar PV projects is causing Nelson Hydro rates to increase up to 5.72% per year for rural clients.

The proponents indicate that Nelson Hydro benefits from the distributed renewable generation, which helps to diversify the generation mix and lessen the load on the wires infrastructure. As over a 12-month seasonal cycle Nelson Hydro imports a significant amount of power from Fortis BC, the distributed solar generation can help to reduce the imported electricity.

As there are always two sides to a coin, The City of Nelson built a revolutionary Solar Community Garden project that allowed residents for Virtual Net Metering. Since the Solar Community Garden investments were made on the premises of paying a full retail price for the solar credits, it may be difficult for the City to change these rules now.

Fortis BC Solar:

Fortis BC service area covers a larger area outside of Nelson, including the following communities: Castlegar, Slocan, Kaslo, Salmo, Creston, Fruitvale, Trail, Rossland and the Okanagan. As long as the net metering clients size their solar PV systems based on their annual power consumption, the Fortis BC net metering program works similar to Nelson Hydro rules. Net Metering systems are limited to 50KW AC. Net positive clients who generate over year over their annual power consumption are compensated at the wholesale rate Fortis Hydro pays to other generators.

BC Hydro Solar:

Finally, BC Hydro service territory covers Crawford Bay, Riondel, East shore of the Kootenay Lake, Cranbrook, Vancouver Island, and most BC. Net Metering systems are limited to 100KW AC. BC Hydro annually compensates for the net generation over the annual consumption at average Mid-Columbia prices for the previous year for all new clients.