Dave Egles is the founder and President of HES PV. Dave will be participating in a session titled “Feasibility assessment & project economics” on Tuesday December 5 from 12:30 pm – 1:15 pm in the Gowling WLG Theatre in the exhibition hall at the Solar Canada Conference & Exposition 2017.
We recently spoke to Dave about what drives consumers to invest in a solar energy system, the innovations that he’s witnessed during his 30 years in the industry, and why’s he’s more bullish than ever about the future of solar energy in Canada.
HES PV will be leading a Gowling WLG Theatre session at Solar Canada. What can attendees expect during your session?
I want to share some insights into why consumers invest in solar energy systems; what are their motivations? Over the years, we have developed a pretty accurate profile of someone who wants to invest in solar power; whether it’s for purely economic reasons, to benefit the environment, or to provide peace of mind for the future.
This session will explore the many reasons that people across Canada are installing solar panels.
We are increasingly seeing solar panels on homes and businesses. How has the cost of solar energy changed in the last five years?
The cost of a solar energy system is half what it was five years ago. In fact, for residential customers, it is now cheaper to use solar energy than it is to buy energy from a local utility. The only difference is that you are paying for your energy in advance.
If you look at your investment over the life of a solar energy system – which is typically 30 years – your rate of return is extremely positive. And that’s based on today’s rates. Part of the appeal is that tomorrow’s rates are likely going to be even higher. Even though there is a strong political push to have cheaper electricity, the costs associated with delivering electricity are constantly increasing.
And, because the global scale of production has increased in the last five years, the cost of solar panels and the associated power electronics continue to drop. In fact, every year parts are getting cheaper and more efficient.
What are the biggest innovations that you’ve seen in the last five years?
The components of a solar energy system have been incrementally improving every year. We are seeing improved power conversion rates of 97+percent on the power electronics, and solar panel efficiency; reaching 20%. If you look at energy production based on surface area, solar panels are always improving. As a result, you can install the same number of panels to generate even more power or you can install fewer panels to generate the same amount of power that you had five years ago.
Let me share a specific example. Five years ago, you needed 80 square feet of solar panels to generate a nominal kilowatt (KW) of energy. Today, you need just 60 square feet to generate that same KW. What does that mean for a typical Canadian household?
Well, that KW that is generated by 60 square feet of solar panels will create 1,200 KW hours of electricity annually. A typical Canadian household uses approximately 12,000 KW hours of energy per year. So, if you install a system designed to generate 10 KW – which would take up approximately 600 square feet – you would incur no energy charges over the course of a year. Of course, your local utility is still going to charge you for using the grid, but you would have no costs associated with energy consumption.
For those who are considering solar panels and have questions about whether it makes sense financially, is there an easy answer?
Yes there is an easy answer. If you have cash in the bank – or in a tax-free savings account (TFSA) – you are earning virtually no return. If, instead, you take that money and invest in a solar energy system, you’ve just paid for your electricity for the next 30 years at a rate of 10 cents per KW hour – or less. This provides a huge financial benefit in markets where delivered electricity currently costs range from 14 to 25 cents per KWh..
Consumer need to ask themselves: what rate am I going to be paying next year, the year after that, and 20 years from now?
Can you tell us a little about HES PV and its position in the Canadian solar energy industry?
I started selling solar in 1987. At that time, solar systems were very expensive; in the area of $100 per watt! In some situations, though, solar systems still made sense.
Slowly and surely, we started serving off-grid residential customers, including people that owned cottages without power service. Some were using propane to power lights and appliances but, for many, solar was a more attractive option.
Today, HES PV provides a service for the installers who are delivering residential solar energy systems across Canada. We have warehouses and people in almost every province. We also support industrial projects, but residential installers make up the bulk of our client base.
We provide products, training, assistance with electrical issues, system designs, and marketing support. Because we deal with people in most areas of the business every day, we know how to solve most challenges. We also provide guidance on where to find customers – and markets – for residential solar systems.
How much of an impact do provincial polices have on the Canadian Solar industry?
All of the provincial programs that exist today are fantastic. Without these programs, businesses would not develop the requisite skills, they wouldn’t understand how to deliver solar projects, and they wouldn’t understand how to market to consumers.
At the same time, almost every province is facing the same problems and asking the same questions: Where will the supply of energy come from in the future? How can we defer building new power plants? How can we generate more clean energy?
One of the ways to avoid needing new supplies of energy is by encouraging widespread conservation. And, what else is solar energy than a type of conservation? At the end of the day, consumers with a solar system installed end up buying less electricity because most (or all) of their energy is coming from the solar panels on their roof.
What are you most excited about for the solar power industry in 2017, 2018 and beyond?
For me, Alberta represents the most exciting opportunity for the solar power industry. In the past, Alberta has not done much about renewable energy. They offered few incentives to consumers and generate most of their power from coal or natural gas. Now, however, they recognize the environmental benefits of solar.
Beyond this year, I hope that the provinces continue to fund the excellent programs that are in place. The move from MicroFit to a province wide Net Metering program is also very exciting, although we haven’t heard the specific plans for Ontario. All other provinces have Net Metering programs in place.
That being said, I think that we are just beginning to see solar power going mainstream. Many consumers like the idea of being in control of their own energy consumption destinies. Currently, they can either choose to use less electricity – which would require lifestyle modifications – or they can install solar panels and not make any changes to their lifestyle. They can own the system, generate their own electricity, and know exactly where the electricity that they consume is coming from.
In the future, solar panels are going to be like insulation in your house. You wouldn’t buy a house without insulation. In a few years’ time, it will be the same way with solar panels.
Dave Egles is the founder and President of HES PV, Canada’s largest and most experienced photovoltaic (PV) systems distributor. With 30 years of industry experience, Mr. Egles leads a team of dedicated solar professionals that help dealers and installers across Canada grow their own business through education, engineering and marketing support, and the supply of quality products. Mr. Egles has a Master’s Degree from the University of British Columbia (UBC) focused on the technology of photovoltaics.
The Canadian solar energy market is growing rapidly
Solar Canada Conference & Exposition 2017 will provide an excellent platform to connect with industry professionals and enter this growing market. Solar Canada takes place December 4 – 5, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario. Canada’s largest solar energy conference is a must-attend event for solar energy professionals, stakeholders, and advocates. Register today.
Looking for a deeper dive? HES PV is proud to present two post-conference workshops
Living off the grid with solar (3 hours) – guest experts to discuss solar off-grid systems – $95
PV system operations and maintenance (4.5 hours) – will provide an overview of how to increase reliability in your existing PV plants – $245
* Both post-conference seminars can be purchased for $295
Post conference workshops are ticketed events and must be added to your registration. Special rate of $295 is available to those who attend both HES PV workshops $295. Register today!