solar site

A design concept for a proposed solar array operated by the District of Summerland.

While elected officials in Penticton were busy sparring with city staff about making the net-metering program more attractive, counterparts in Summerland have been showing how to get it done.

At its most basic level, net metering allows those with power generators like solar panels to sell excess electricity back onto the grid.

The big drawback to solar power is that it’s most plentiful in the summertime when it’s needed the least. To overcome that, some utilities allow customers to “bank” the surplus power they send to the grid.

So if a homeowner put 100 kilowatt-hours of power onto the grid in the summer, that homeowner could then take 100 kilowatt-hours of power in the winter at no cost.

(The whole thing is called net metering or net zero because the idea is that, in the end result, a home will produce exactly as much power as it needs. )

A group of homeowners – there are currently 34 buildings in Penticton that sell back to the grid – asked the city in June to allow banking on an annual basis, rather than monthly, but staff shot down the idea as too expensive and unfair in some ways to standard customers.

But in a rare show of defiance, council this week sent staff back to the drawing board.

“I think what we’ve got here is a classic argument from staff for no action, which equals no progress,” said Coun. Julius Bloomfield.

He’s right. And for guidance on what can be done, Penticton ought to look to Summerland.

Not only is that community in the planning stages for a massive solar array of its own, but it’s also making it easier for residential customers to get on the net-zero bandwagon.

District staff is hosting an open house on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 3-6 p.m. at the arena banquet room, to introduce people to the concept and answer questions. Solar installers will also be on hand.

And the district’s website already has a page dedicated to the net-metering program that explains what’s involved and walks people through the process.

Summerland may be quaint, but its net-metering program is cutting edge compared to what Penticton has.

— City editor Joe Fries

This editorial has been updated to clarify Summerland only offers net metering to residential customers. Penticton offers the program to residential and commercial customers.