Nova Scotia is finally accepting applications for its Community Feed-in Tarrif (ComFIT) program this month. While I welcome any move to encourage the development of renewable energy, I believe Nova Scotia is missing out on the most crucial element behind Northern Europe’s success in reducing dependence on fossil fuels: remuneration of individuals who feed power into the grid.
Limiting the tarrif scheme to community groups, who must guarantee generation above a set power limit and obtain permissions from local authorities before becoming eligible for remuneration, eliminates the incentive for individuals to invest in personal green energy systems. An altruistic motivation to install PV or other generation systems is not enough to convince individuals to lay out the considerable amount of cash required. Calculating payback periods based on projected personal savings is difficult for many potential micro-generation investors.
There is not enough incentive for most power consumers in merely watching one’s electric meter run backwards, even though it is nice to see a reduced power bill at the end of the month — and to get a warm fuzzy feeling from knowing that something has been done to reduce a neighbour’s dependence on fossil fuels. The real incentive that can push consumers into investing in micro generation is an actual payment for excess power produced and contributed to the grid. In a capitalistic system like ours, we want to see a concrete benefit for the expenditure of our effort and money.
We need to get as many people as possible to purchase and install effective renewable energy systems. It is not enough to leave it to the proverbial “them” — even though they may be a community-based consortium. It is not enough to limit energy production to those who can afford commercial-scale windmills or other medium to large systems. We have businesses who are ready and willing to build and install residential and other small-scale renewable generation systems. We should be supporting them by making it as easy and attractive as possible for individual consumers to become active energy contributors.