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UPDATED: Solar subsidies for P.E.I. homes and businesses

Mark Booth at his home in Belle River. The homeowner decided to install solar panels at his home to lower his energy costs.
Mark Booth at his home in Belle River. The homeowner decided to install solar panels at his home to lower his energy costs. - Stu Neatby

The new rebates were announced Friday morning

PINETTE, P.E.I. —

For Mark Booth, the motivation for installing solar panels on his property was a mix of green concern and shrewd cost savings. 
Booth, who works as a manager for an aerospace company, capped off a renovation project to his Belle River home last Christmas by installing a series of solar panels in his yard. 
He said this installation, as well as the replacement of a propane heating system with an electric heat pump, has meant his utility costs have dropped from around $400 per month to just over $34 last month. 
"I still have idealistic things, reducing carbon footprints. I mean, it's been on the agenda for a decade, this is nothing new,” Booth said.
“But you have to have something that makes financial sense to do it."
Still, the initial outlay for setting up the panels was substantial. Booth estimated the costs for setting up the system in his yard was around $50,000. 
"I'll have paid off on the run rates on this in probably about 11 years," Booth said.
The solar panels feed first into the energy needs of his home. Remaining electricity generated is fed back into the grid, providing Booth with a credit that will offset his monthly bills. The savings can be monitored through an online app. As of Friday, the app informed Booth he had reduced his carbon emissions by 1.15 tons this month. 
Booth’s backyard served as the setting for a provincial announcement on Friday of a start date for a solar installation rebate program offered for homeowners. As of Aug. 7, Islanders will be able to apply for a rebate of up to 40 per cent of the initial cost of installation of solar panels, to a maximum of $10,000. The rebates will be administered by Efficiency P.E.I.
A spokesperson from the province said the province would share the costs of the rebates 50-50 with the federal Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund.
In addition, Finance P.E.I. will be offering a 15-year, five per cent loan to help homes and businesses offset the cost of installation.
Energy Minister Steven Myers said the new program has a goal of converting between 180 and 200 new households to solar producers this year. If successful, this would eliminate 584 tons of carbon emissions.
"It's a really good opportunity for us to be greener," Myers said.
"It's a really good opportunity to help people kind of even out their monthly costs."
Matt Eye, owner of M.B. Eye Electrical, installed the panels in Booth’s yard. 
He says he receives calls on a daily basis from clients looking to install solar panels on their homes and businesses.
“It’s become 80 per cent of our workload over the last few years,” Eye said.
Eye has heard from over 30 customers who have been waiting for the commencement of government incentive programs before installing similar systems in their homes. 
Steve Howard, the Green party energy critic, was equally positive about the announced incentives.
"It's a fantastic pilot program and it's a good first step to get a healthy industry here so that we can do even more things in the future," Howard said.
"They're just testing the waters and seeing how a program like this [goes], what the uptake is like and what the impact is on the grid. I would expect it will evolve as that data comes in." 

Stu.neatby@theguardian.pe.ca
Twitter.com/stu_neatby

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