Costs and affordability: Don’t be blinded by the (sun)light!

The main obstacle to the widespread use of solar panels in Québec is the substantial initial investment, combined with limited yearly savings. Here are a few examples of false promises made by some solar panel vendors in Québec and a few important points to keep in mind when deciding whether to go ahead with your project. Get informed!

Be wary of promises of a quick payback!

Some solar panel vendors promise a quick payback based on unrealistic power generation data and inflated potential savings. Here is a little information from neutral, credible sources that you can check for yourself.

Important notice:

Hydro-Québec recommends that you consult an engineer specializing in the field to assess your project’s cost-effectiveness before purchasing a photovoltaic solar system. Hydro-Québec does not provide any financial assistance to customers enrolled in the net metering option or the self-generation without compensation plan.

Potential for self-generated solar power in Québec

In southern Québec, every kilowatt of installed capacity can generate approximately 1,200 kWh a year.

To determine whether you have the optimal generating conditions, check the following factors:

  • Will you be able to install your solar panels facing due south?
  • Will your panels be properly inclined for your latitude?
  • Are there any trees or buildings that cast shade on your roof where your panels will be installed?

Installing solar panels: Is it worthwhile?

Curious to know what it would cost to install solar panels? Want an estimate of how much energy your solar panels could produce in a year, or how long it would take to recoup your investment? Then this calculator is for you!

Potential savings on your electricity bill

After assessing the power-generation potential of the solar panels that you plan to install, you can estimate how much you will save on your electricity bill. Here’s how:

  • Check your current consumption by accessing your Customer Space (as a residential customer or business customer) to view your Consumption Profile.
  • Determine the average number of kilowatthours your solar power system will be able to generate in a year by multiplying the system’s total installed capacity (in kilowatts) by 1,200 kWh for an ideal scenario in Québec.

Sample calculation

In Québec, an average-sized detached house uses roughly 25,000 kWh of electricity a year.

An installation comprising 16 300-W photovoltaic solar panels (for a total installed capacity of 4.8 kW) will generate 5,760 kWh a year in ideal conditions, saving you approximately $500 on your electricity bill each year.

This theoretical scenario is based on ideal conditions, including the following:

  • Fixed solar panels with an ideal orientation
  • Nominal capacity at 25°C
  • New panels
  • No shade on panels
  • System fully paid-for at the time of purchase

This setup would cost approximately $14,400, based on an average price of $3 per watt.

Hydro-Québec’s net metering option: Examples of realistic credits

Hydro-Québec’s net metering option allows customers to generate electricity from a renewable source while remaining connected to Hydro-Québec’s grid, thereby enabling them to compensate for the intermittent nature of photovoltaic solar power.

With this option, if customers generate more electricity with solar panels than they use, Hydro-Québec will grant them credits measured in kilowatthours—not a refund—for the surplus power they feed into the grid. These credits are put into a bank and, if they are not used within 24 months, the bank is reset to zero. It is important to note that, regardless of the quantity of power fed into the Hydro-Québec grid, customers cannot be credited for Hydro Québec’s fixed charge of roughly 40¢ per day.

To qualify for the net metering option, customer installations must not generate more electricity than they use: the customer’s goal must be self-sufficiency and not sales.

Important !

Hydro-Québec must approve all net metering enrollment applications, regardless of the renewable source of energy selected. Please allow two to three weeks for your application to be processed. We strongly recommend that you submit your project to Hydro-Québec before purchasing any equipment in order to ensure your eligibility for the net metering option and the compliance of your equipment with Hydro-Québec’s technical specifications.

Energy independence: Another exception

Although it is possible to do so, it is not realistic at this time to try to be completely independent and disconnected from Hydro-Québec’s power grid unless you have a very energy-efficient home and keep your energy consumption to the bare minimum. The main challenges you face are the power ratings of certain energy-hungry appliances and the space required to install solar panels.

For example, you would have to have up to 70 solar panels to generate enough energy for an average-sized house. And 70 solar panels would be the equivalent of two-thirds of a tennis court, often larger than the surface area of a roof.

Moving toward an off-grid system

Especially if you have an off-grid system, it is critical to keep your power consumption to a minimum. Your home’s foundation, roof and walls should be well insulated, your windows should be triple-glazed, and you should use LED lighting fixtures. In addition, your home should be fitted with highly efficient, ENERGY STAR® electronics and appliances. It is unlikely that a solar power system would be able to meet all your heating needs.