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Vancouver Gets An “F” For Solar Policy

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Edmonton, Toronto, & Calgary are Canada’s Solar Policy Leaders, According to SPEC.

Originally published on the ECOreport.

One can’t help but notice the timing of the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation’s (SPEC) list ranking Canadian cities on their solar energy policy. Vancouver, which hopes to become the “world’s greenest city,” just hosted the Renewable Cities Global Learning Forum at the Four Seasons Hotel, May 13-15. Though Vancouver has done well in many areas, SPEC has long maintained that the city’s solar energy policy is not one of them. According to its survey of 17 municipalities, Vancouver gets an “F” for solar policy in Canada; Edmonton, Toronto, & Calgary are the policy leaders.


The top two cities in SPEC’s survey were two small interior British Columbian municipalities with a population of around 1,000. The permitting costs for installing a 5 kW photovoltaic system in Cawston and Keremeos were $80 and $144, respectively.

Canada’s three top major cities were:

  • (#3) Edmonton — $285
  • (#4) Toronto — $342
  • (#5) Calgary — $375

Jenny Hong, Senior Environmental Project Manager with the City of Edmonton, said permitting can be a significant barrier, especially for residential solar installations. Alberta is still in the beginning phases of solar adoption, but Edmonton has established an energy resilience target to generate 10% of the city’s electricity locally, such as through solar PV, by 2035.

“As part of the energy transition strategy (which the city passed on April 29th, 2015), we will be exploring and implementing various initiatives to increase PV solar adoption in new and existing residential buildings as well as institutional, commercial, and industrial buildings,” she said.

SPEC’s survey commended Toronto because of its low-flat-fee electrical permit.


Though British Columbia does not regard the development of solar as a priority, the province has more potential than Germany.

Rob Baxter, president of SPEC, said Vancouver ranks last (#17) in its survey because the permitting and engineering costs on a 5 kW photovoltaic system can total $2,255.

He first drew the public’s attention to this problem in a press release last December and was also interviewed by the ECOreport.

A spokesperson for Vancouver subsequently said this was a misunderstanding. Permitting costs do not include the equipment, just installation costs, which significantly reduces SPEC’s totals.

To which Baxter replied that the city made a verbal commitment which is expected to reduce the total by $650. This is not in writing and will still be at least three times higher than permitting in Toronto.

Vancouver’s spokesperson explained the high cost because of the need for engineers to incorporate earthquake risks into their design.


Yet the city of Colwood, which is ranked #8 on SPEC’s survey, is also in an earthquake zone and does not require a building permit for solar if:

  • The PV system’s distributed weight does not exert a load greater than 5 lbs/sq. ft. on the roof,
  • The system connection to the roof results in each point of connection is less than 50 lbs.

In fact, there are 10 other British Columbian cities in SPEC’s survey, and all of them have lower permitting and engineering costs than Vancouver.

In a previous interview, Baxter said, “Vancouver is talking about being the greenest city. 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.”

Vancouver Renewable Energy is currently 9 weeks into the permitting process for a project in the city. That was just the development permit. They still have to apply for building and electrical permits and hire an engineer.

“The city keeps telling us things will get better, but they do not,” said Baxter.


They city of Surrey (#15) is not much better. Homeowner Eugene Beregovoy said municipal requirements add 12% to the system cost, making the system “worthless to install.” Eugene added, “It will take an additional 3 years for my system to pay for those costs.”

SPEC chose the opening of the Renewable Cities Global Learning Forum to remind Vancouver of the problem. Government, industry, and civil leaders were in the city for a forum celebrating “the global movement for 100% renewable energy and energy efficiency in cities.”

Photo Credits: SPEC’s ranking of the Solar Policy in Canadian cities; View From the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver by Roy Luck via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License); on the roof of the Shaw Theatre at NAIT’s Main Campus in Canada’s leading major city for solar policy, Edmonton, by NAIT via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License);Installation in Langley BC, bordering Surrey, by Vancouver Renewable Energy

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Written By

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the Cortes Currents (formerly the ECOreport), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of British Columbia. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.


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