Solar Power Costs a Lot of Green in Canada’s Greenest City

Vancouver Sunset

By Maura Forrest

May 21, 2015

Vancouver may have ambitions to be the world’s greenest city, but its record on solar power isn’t going to help it get there, according to a new report.

The Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC) recently ranked Vancouver last out of 17 Canadian cities for the cost of fees and permits required to install residential solar panels. The top three Canadian cities were Edmonton, Toronto, and Calgary.

The survey found that municipal permits and inspections for installing a photovoltaic system cost $2,255 in Vancouver, compared to just $285 in Edmonton. The cost in Vancouver has risen from $620 prior to 2014, but “new policies moved it further down the list,” according to the report.

“Vancouver is talking about being the greenest city,” said Rob Baxter, president of SPEC, in an interview with The ECOReport. “It seems to me that in this case you would want to have a policy that was at least as good as other cities, if not better. The city keeps telling us things will get better, but they do not.”

Baxter said he’s heard from the city that Vancouver’s costs are high because it requires extra permits to ensure that solar panels are earthquake-proof. But he pointed out that the small city of Colwood, B.C. ranked eighth on the list with fees totaling $602, and is also in an earthquake zone.

Deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston told the Vancouver Sun that the city is reviewing its fee structure for residential solar panels.

“I don’t agree Vancouver is the least solar-friendly city,” he said. “We were the first in Canada to mandate solar-ready buildings and put it in the building code. However, I agree we can do more to incentivize the installation of solar.”

The new survey comes less than two months after Vancouver announced a commitment to convert to 100 per cent renewable energy. The city plans to use green energy for electricity, heating, cooling, and transportation, though the commitment does not yet have any firm dates attached to it.

Although the city may not be leading in solar power, Vancouver has made progress on other sustainability goals. The amount of waste going to landfills has dropped by 12 per cent since 2008, and the city now has at least 600 car-sharing vehicles and 100 electric charging stations.

Moreover, the Pembina Institute praised B.C. in a recent report for its green policies and for the 14,000 B.C. jobs related to renewable-energy projects.