A quick Google search shows that every other province in Canada except Newfoundland has a page explaining their “net metering” power program. The “net” has nothing to do with the internet. It’s about producing a net surplus of electricity while still hooked into the grid.
Here’s how it works: A homeowner might choose to install a windmill or solar panels on their property. That gets wired into their home and power meter. If they’re generating more power than their house needs, their meter runs backwards.
If in a month, the power company notes an overall net surplus of power, the homeowner gets a credit towards the next month’s bill.
Homes can be engineered to run solely off their own generation during a power outage, according to Nova Scotia Power’s website. It isn’t a given with every system, but it is possible.
While the other nine provinces have their net metering programs set up and advertised on their websites, a spokesperson for NL Hydro said its not yet that simple in this province but suggested it may be in the works.
According to the legislation passed in 2012, NL Hydro is under no obligation to purchase power from any supplier, be it a small-scale home-based operation or large-scale industrial operations, such as paper mills.
With the lack of a concrete net metering program, and confusion over NL Hydro’s generating monopoly, the province is discouraging new home builders from incorporating some form of small scale energy generation into their new homes.
Having homes and buildings that are capable of being self-sustaining during an outage would diminish the crises that arise during large-scale power outages. Instead our province has sprawling suburbs of large but well-insulated homes that mainly rely on electric heat.
The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a not-for-profit think tank that looks at market issues, released a commentary this past November criticizing the province for granting NL Hydro a monopoly on power generation in the province.
The monopoly was meant to protect the investment taxpayers are about to make in the Muskrat Falls development but James Feehan, the author of the commentary, notes that this market protectionism stifles innovation.
If you want an example of how stifling this legislation is, look no further than the east coast and the blackouts of 2014.