September/October Feature Story
“Homeowners are directly benefiting from an investment in or a behaviour change in Green Energy”
Colyn Strong, President and Founder of Shift Energy Group, saw the value of energy efficiencies first hand, during the years he managed energy efficiency projects in the public sector and later when he facilitated public sector energy projects with engineers and contractors.
His curiosity encouraged him to assess the viability of solar as a business division back in 2014 when only a few early adopters were willing to take the leap.
“Times have changed since then. It’s still not a mature, mainstream market,” says Strong, “but it’s changing fast. More and more, solar is becoming economically viable as an alternative energy solution for home owners and organizations.”
What’s causing the change is the steady and dramatic 70% decline in the price of solar power in the past decade. By 2020, the cost of buying and installing solar panels is expected to be 90 per cent lower than it was a decade ago. According to a recent National Energy Board [Government of Canada] report, in a low-cost future, residential solar will eventually cost less than residential electricity prices in most provinces in Canada. (Whether solar generation is competitive in a province or territory often depends more on local electricity prices, rather than the amount of sunlight received.)
At the same time, panel technology and efficiency have increased significantly, too. What was a 250 W residential panel five years ago is now 300-320 W. At the same time, a lot of effort has make panels look more aesthetically pleasing. Now, these premium, all-black panels can seamlessly blend right into existing roofs.
Q: Colyn, I understand that you will be opening another facility in our neighbourhood.
A: Yes, our facility in Nanaimo is at capacity right now and to service more growth on Vancouver Island, we opened a new location right off the Island Highway right here in the West Shore. We’re excited to continue our growth throughout B.C.
Q: Congratulations! What does a showroom for clean energy solutions look like?
A: Definitely it can show how solar can be aesthetically appealing. We’re also showcasing some emerging technologies on the energy storage side of things. As well, I think it’s important to show the various ways solar panels can attach to a roof—which is an integral part of a successful installation. Displays will include flashing kits, metal roof clamps and the use of self-ballasted mounting techniques. We also showcase some of our added service offerings, like what an electric vehicle charging station looks like.
Q: Do you need to get a building permit to install a solar system?
A: It really depends on the municipality. Many jurisdictions have amended their requirements structured for solar thermal installations that were popular a decade ago. We’ve found that municipalities will often waive these expensive requirements for solar PV installs when you discuss the requirements with them face-to-face. However, there are no barriers like that in Langford. Other than electrical, no other permits are required. It’s nice to do business here.
Q: What about house insurance?
A: We recommend that you increase the coverage on your home to cover the cost of the system. It can raise your premium, but only by a few dollars. A solar energy system is covered by your standard homeowners’ policies, which doesn’t need to be changed.
Q: We all want to eliminate pollution and live in a cleaner environment. From your observations, what does the journey of an average consumer into solar look like?
A: A typical process starts with an inquiry for a proposal from the homeowner. We have an initial consultation to see what it is they are looking for and, if appropriate, follow up with a site visit. Our imaging software sends clients a real-life simulation of what the solar panels would look like on their home.
The software also assesses the impact of the sun’s direction, local weather data, and amount of shade to determine how much energy that system will produce for that home in that particular location. [Annual production is calculated based on each panels absorption of daylight.]
Q: Would you recommend your clients put solar on a new roof?
A: New is best. But if we have a client who wants a solar system installed over an older roof, we will dismantle the panels within the first ten years so they can re-roof at no additional cost.
Q: Would you say businesses in general have been more receptive to clean energy solutions than home owners?
A: Not at all. Homeowners are generally more engaged in finding energy savings. Homeowners directly benefit from an investment or behaviour change. Many corporations are receptive because they have energy efficiency and sustainability policy-driven targets to achieve. That said,unless the solution earns them a return higher than “x”, they will rightfully not invest. Each company will have a different value and means to calculate “x”. Electrical costs in BC are still low compared to other parts of the world. It’s higher utility costs that are and will continue to drive change for alternatives.
Q: When you select a mix of products for a customer, is the selection different for residential vs commercial use?
A: We assess each project on its own standing merits. We’re not limited to a certain manufacturer who may not have what the client wants. An inventory of panels is very fluid and changes daily. We take time to listen and respond with a Class A, Tier 1 system that is custom designed for each client. We believe each project is unique. This approach allows us to select a mix of products that creates the highest return and greatest visual satisfaction.
Q: Let’s explore another viable clean energy solution: commercial LED lighting. Your website says that lighting upgrades are now one of the best investments a business can make.
A: LED lighting has made dramatic advancements in the past few years. Costs have been driven down while efficiency and performance has increased significantly. Where else can you achieve a consistent ROI of over 150% and maintain responsible environmental stewardship at the same time?
Q: What’s an average payback period for LED retrofits?
A: On average, our LED retrofit projects have achieved a simple payback period of 36 months. In addition, our clients can expect enhanced light levels, improved safety, and a virtual elimination of associated maintenance costs.
Q: What kind of results do you see when businesses pair an LED upgrade with a solar system?
A: It’s really dependent on the building. A service station, for example, could pair an LED upgrade with a solar system and be fast approaching near zero electricity consumption. The LED retrofit solutions will lower lighting consumption by almost 80% while a net metered solar system could produce enough power annually to nearly eliminate the electricity bill entirely. It’s possible and it’s happening.
Did you know….
In November, 2018, the Federal Government of Canada announced new tax incentives for businesses looking to purchase eco-friendly equipment and at the top of list is solar. Under Class 43.1 and Class 43.2 in the Canadian Income Tax Regulations guide, businesses can now immediately deduct 100% of the costs of qualifying clean energy equipment to maximize their tax deduction in the first year!
Federal rebates for electric cars have also kicked in with increased price limit to $55,000. The rebates, announced in the last Liberal budget, will take up to $5,000 off the cost of electric vehicles, and $2,500 off plug-in hybrids.
The increase will allow some of the most popular cars, including the Tesla Model 3, to qualify. Nine electric cars and 13 plug-in hybrids are eligible, including the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Bolt.
And there is more!
The Clean Energy Vehicle Incentive (CEVforBC™) is a provincial program intended to make clean energy vehicles (CEV) more affordable for British Columbians.
The program provides point-of-sale incentives on eligible vehicles of up to:
- $3,000 for the purchase or lease of a new battery electric vehicle, hydrogen fuel cell electric, or longer range plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (down from $5,000)
- $1,500 for the purchase or lease of a shorter range plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (down from $3,000)
Any CEV with a manufacturer suggested retail price above $55,000 will not be eligible for a vehicle purchase incentive from the CEV Program.
Incentives will be available until March 31st, 2020 or until available funding is depleted, whichever comes first. Visit the CEVforBC™ website for program details.
And for some owners with late model vehicles, the BC SCRAP-IT PROGRAM offers incentives for British Columbians to scrap high polluting vehicles for an electric vehicle and other low carbon forms of transportation. The program has strict rules which you can check out at https://scrapit.ca/.