HALIFAX -- A Nova Scotia Power proposal to charge fees for customers who sell power back to the grid has drawn heated criticism from solar installers who say it will damage the emerging industry.

The utility applied Thursday before the Utility and Review Board for a monthly fee of about $8 per kilowatt of electricity, which in a typical 10-kilowatt photovoltaic solar installation would amount to about $960 annually.

David Brushett, the chairman of Solar Nova Scotia, says this would be a massive reduction of a typical homeowner's revenue of about $1,800 annually from a 10-kilowatt photovoltaic installation -- and would nearly double the time needed for a homeowner to earn back the cost of installing the system.

Brushett said Nova Scotia Power's proposal is already creating uncertainty in the industry as nervous consumers reconsider solar installations scheduled for this spring.
Nova Scotia Power chief executive Peter Gregg said on Thursday it would be fair to apply the monthly fee because the firm has to bear the cost of ensuring all customers have access to a reliable source of electricity.

Gregg said without the fee, homeowners who generate electricity are effectively being subsidized by other customers on the Nova Scotia Power system who don't have the panels and are paying full rates.