Solar power cheaper than NSPI

If you enjoy decent sun exposure, you can install solar electric panels on your house and begin earning a profit the next month while making a big-time reduction in your carbon footprint.

solar-pv-flower-scaledThere’s no magic to this, no rebates are required, and the math is easy.

The average Nova Scotia home consumes about 10,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, or kWh. Each kWh, taxes-in, costs around $0.155 when you buy it from Nova Scotia Power. That works out to $1,550 per year.

Let’s say you install enough solar photovoltaic panels, known as solar PV or just PV, to generate the full 10,000 kWh. In Halifax, that would require panels with a generating capacity of about 9,300 kW (known to solar nerds as kWp).

It’s hard to get an online estimate of the cost in Nova Scotia, but there’s a company in P.E.I. that will install that — for Islanders —  for about $19,500. (Actually, P.E.I., gets more sun, so it might cost Islanders as little as $15,700. Maybe you, too, if you live in a sunny spot.)

Seems high, right? But what if you mortgaged $19,500 at 4.54% with a 25-year amortization, terms I picked at random from Canadian Banks? The answer is annual mortgage payments of $1,301, including principal. That’s $250 less than you’re paying now for electricity.

Each year you pay in $1,301 and you get back $250 for your trouble. Presto! A profit.

At Turpin Laboratories, we have access to credit at 2.89%, so our annual cost would be $1,094.

It works out to $0.11 per kWh versus the $0.155 per kWh from NSPI. By the way, this is not so different from what power utilities do: they borrow money to build massive power plants and pay it back, plus interest, over the life of the equipment. The nice thing about PV panels is they require almost no maintenance, are guaranteed for 25 years and could last as long as 40 years.

And here’s the best part: based on NSPI figures, you would be reducing your GHG emissions by 6,520 kg (carbon equivalent). This is the equivalent of taking 1.3 passenger cars off the road, or not burning 3,159 kg of coal

But, you ask, the sun doesn’t shine 24/7, so what do I do when it’s dark?

Well, in Nova Scotia we have a thing called net metering for households. In a nutshell, it means NSPI has to buy any excess electricity your panels produce at the same price they charge you for their electricity. So, to over-simplify, they pay you for excess generation during the day and you pay them for their electricity at night. Periodically, you and the company do the math: you subtract what they sold you from what they purchased from you and settle the bill. At Turpin Labs, it means NSPI would cut us a cheque for $450 at the end of the year.

And this works for any number of PV panels. (Two to four thousand watts (Wp) is common.) Add more for your electric vehicle and —wow — you are star at saving humans from climate change. Plus, your electricity and auto fuel bills total zero.

It’s important to shop around and do your homework. This a new industry, so ask tough questions — there’s plenty of info available on the web.

If you can’t get a reasonable forecast about your generation potential, then move on to another installer. If someone is offering you panels than generate much more than 1.1 kWh annually per kWp of panel capacity (kWh/kWp  now that you know the lingo), start asking questions. Natural resources Canada has detailed and relevant local data here.

But you can’t go crazy and actually compete with the power company. The amount of solar capacity you install has to be consistent with your needs.

Has Turpin Labs done this? No, because we’re reluctant to take on new debt in the Lab’s development, despite the rock-solid logic of the proposition. It’s just psychology. This is where a rebate from, say, Efficiency Nova Scotia, could make a difference in combatting climate change.

“Wow, Turpin Labs,” you say. “This is great! Why aren’t the government and NSPI promoting the heck out of this to help fight climate change?”

Well, at a certain point residential generation becomes a problem for power utilities and that’s a problem for governments, even ones that campaigned on putting the powerco in its place.

More on that in a future post.


Carbon tax: you can get PAID twice

T-Labs refs call B-S on carbon tax whining:

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil got it wrong when he said Nova Scotians would “pay twice” under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax. Actually, many of them will GET PAID TWICE unless McNeil tries a cash-grab.

In fact, the biggest risk to Nova Scotians is that their own government will spend the tax money on useless, cockamamie projects.

Stephen McNeil, premier

McNeil threw a fit when Trudeau said Canada would have a carbon tax starting in 2018 if the provinces don’t do anything on their own, which they won’t.

McNeil whined that Nova Scotians will have to “pay twice” to fight climate change, which is killing us, because we have already paid so much for the progress we’ve made to date reducing power company carbon emissions. He was backed by his human survival minister, Margaret Miller, who walked out of a federal-provincial conference in protest.

For clarity, by “paying twice” McNeil can only mean that we paid once through our higher power rates caused by renewables and cleaner air, and now must pay again through Prime Minister Dr. Evil’s carbon tax.

It’s a beloved story: Nova Scotians getting the shaft.

But at Turpin Laboratories, our Referees Division is blowing the whistle and calling “bullshit”. Here’s why:

In 2007, in a spasm of long-term thinking unnoticed except by then-Human Survival Minister Mark Parent, the N.S. Assembly passed sweeping environmental legislation that included bringing down GHG (carbon) emissions from power generation. At the time, Nova Scotia Power’s emissions were 10,648,422 tonnes per year.

Without that intervention it’s a good bet we would be emitting at least that much today, and probably more, despite some high-profile plant-closings.

So, let’s imagine that 2018 rolls around and we are emitting the very same $10,648,422 tonnes per year. How much would we pay in Trudeau’s dastardly carbon tax over the next nine years? The total would be $3,550,874,250 (see chart below).

However, our power emissions are currently just 6,772,769 tonnes. If we assume that rate from 2018 through 2026, our total carbon tax would be $2,370,469,150. The difference is $1,180,405,100. That is, Nova Scotians would SAVE  $1.2 billion.

Put still another way, Newfoundland, which today has emissions very close to what we had in 2007, would pay $1.2 billion MORE than Nova Scotians.

The difference is Nova Scotia’s reward for getting an early start. Sorry, but it’s just not the same as “paying twice”.

Also, the carbon tax revenues will not leave the N.S. economy. The feds will remit the funds back to the province. That’s where the real danger lies: instead of using it to lower provincial income tax, as B.C. does, our government could well use it to reward the province’s high rollers with projects like football stadiums or, say, a massive convention centre for Yarmouth or New Waterford.

On the other hand, if the province in fact lowered its income tax, regular folks would get a tax break and, if they actually reduced their carbon footprints, they would save money on gasoline and electricity.

In other words, they would get PAID twice: tax-break + energy savings = paid twice.

But we’re not done. Our political thinkers would have you believe that Nova Scotia is the only province to address GHG emissions. But Turpin Labs has discovered there are actually 10 provinces in Canada (who knew?) and some of them have reduced their GHGs, too.

Yes, Nova Scotia is tops with a commendable 29% since 2005. But N.B. (say it ain’t so) is right behind us at 27%. Ontario’s number is 19%. The Yukon is 40% (see chart below).

So, N.S. politicians, please stop pleading special case, grow up, and figure out how best to use all that new tax money coming your way. Hint: give it back to the people who paid it.