2020 Provincial Solar Power Guides & Rankings

Canadian Solar Power Rankings

Every year, energyhub.org scores Canadian provinces and territories on the relative benefits that property owners can derive by installing a solar energy system.

To be clear – these rankings do not indicate which provinces are inherently better for solar (they may be less sunny, harder to access, etc).

Rather, they indicate which provinces currently offer the most benefits to property owners based on multiple factors including sunlight levels, electricity costs, installation costs, and financing options.

Our 2020 provincial solar rankings and guides were last updated on May 1st, 2020.

Access Solar Guides

This year’s ranking factors are divided into four major categories:


Solar Incentives

Solar Energy Incentives Canada

Solar energy incentives continue to play a key role in making solar power feasible in many provinces. However, as the installation costs in Canada continue to decline – incentives become less and less important.

The solar incentives category contains two ranking factors scored as indicated:

  • Solar Rebates and Tax Credits /15
  • Other Energy Incentives /5
  • Total /20

Major incentives programs – such as rebates and tax credits – offer property owners large benefits by decreasing the total upfront system costs. Provinces earned higher scores for large and inclusive incentive programs.

We also consider synergistic energy incentives (efficiency upgrades, electric vehicles, etc) in our scoring system as these incentives are often leveraged when property owners install solar.

Insights:

  • Incentives continue to fluctuate across the country. In the past year, some programs have been eliminated (Alberta, Saskatchewan), reduced (Nova Scotia), or newly formed (PEI).
  • Alberta recently lost its provincial rebate, but it still ranks high as half a dozen municipalities currently offer smaller incentive programs.
  • Saskatchewan is the only province/territory without major energy incentives. Most other provinces have many options offered through their energy efficiency body (CleanBC, Energy Efficiency Alberta, Efficiency Manitoba, etc)

Natural Factors

Solar Energy Production Potential Canada

The amount of energy that can be produced by a photovoltaic system is dependent on the amount of sunlight that the panels receive – more sunlight means more production potential.

The natural factors category contains just one ranking factor:

  • Solar Irradiance /20
  • Total /20

The amount of irradiance (sunlight) that a province receives determines the maximal amount of energy that a solar system can produce. Provinces with higher irradiation received higher scores.

(You can read more about solar irradiation on our Solar Maps page.)

Insights:

  • Nunavut, while having the northernmost communities in our assessment, receives more annual solar irradiation than 5 other provinces and territories. This is due primarily to extremely long summer days and low cloud cover relative to coastal provinces.
  • Southern Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba receive more solar irradiation than anywhere else in Canada.
  • April is the most productive month for solar power (Canada average = 122kWh/kW/mo) and December is the least productive month (Canada average = 46kWh/kW/mo).

Utility Policies

Utility & Solar Connection Policies Canada

Utility-related policies play an extremely important role in making solar feasible. In many cases, such as electricity prices and net metering programs, these policies are ‘make or break’ factors in the decision making process.

The utility policies category contains three ranking factors scored as indicated:

  • Interconnection Policy and Fees /15
  • Total Electricity Costs /10
  • Rate Design /5
  • Total /30

Interconnection policies determine what size of system can connect to the grid, as well as how and how much systems are compensated for the energy they produce. Higher scoring provinces generally allow large system sizes and compensate energy production at the full retail rate.

Electricity prices are important ranking factors because they determine the maximal amount of costs that can be offset by a solar energy system. Higher scoring provinces have higher electricity costs.

Utility bill rate design determines how much total electricity costs decline when energy usage declines. Higher scoring provinces have more responsive rate designs.

(You can read more about electricity prices and rate design on our Electricity Prices page.)

Insights:

  • There is a net metering, net billing, or micro-generation available for property owners in every province and territory.
  • All provinces credit energy at the retail rate except for:
    • Yukon Territory: electricity is purchased at $0.21/kWh, nearly double the subsidized retail electricity rate
    • Saskatchewan: electricity is purchased at $0.075/kWh, about half the retail electricity rate
    • Manitoba – electricity is purchased at $0.002949/kWh, about 1/3 the retail electricity rate.
  • The cheapest electricity appears to be in provinces where hydro and nuclear sources are abundant: Quebec, Manitoba, Ontario, and British Columbia.
  • The highest fixed electricity costs are in the provinces where the energy markets are competitive (Alberta and Ontario).
  • Apart from the three territories where net metering size limits are all under 15kW, Quebec is the only province where the size limit is less than 100kW – it has a limit of 50kW.

System Financing

Solar Energy Financing Canada

System financing is an extremely important consideration for people who are switching to solar power – especially in terms of system costs and financing options.

The system financing category contains three ranking factors scored as indicated:

  • Cost of Installation /15
  • PACE Financing /10
  • Other Financing Options /5
  • Total /30

Upfront cost of installation remains a primary barrier for many property owners. Provinces scored higher when upfront costs were cheaper.

Property assessed clean energy (PACE) is an innovative financing option that allows you to repay your system costs through your property tax. Higher scoring provinces had these programs available.

Loans that are specifically intended for clean energy projects make it easier for homeowners to switch to solar. Provinces that had these options scored higher.

(You can read more about upfront costs on our Cost of Solar Power page.)

Insights:

  • PACE and on-bill financing programs exist in many provinces, but is implemented to highly varying degrees.
    • PACE exists in Nova Scotia (most of province), Ontario (some of province), Alberta (incoming), Yukon (some of province), and the Northwest Territories (incoming).
    • On-Bill financing exists in Manitoba (full province), British Columbia (some of province, but not for solar), and Newfoundland and Labrador (full province, but not for solar).
  • The average installation cost in Canada (before applicable ta and rebates) is $3.01/Watt with the lowest priced province being Ontario ($2.34-$2.59/watt) and the highest priced being Nunavut ($4.00+/watt).

Complete Solar Power Guides

(click on your province below to access your province’s solar guide)


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Majid Rahimi
1 year ago

The average cost figures provided here are based on W-DC or W-AC