Will Tesla's Powerwall lower your electricity bill in Nova Scotia?

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This past week the founder of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, announced his latest project called the Tesla Powerwall.

Put simply, this is a home battery that is meant to reduce reliance on the power grid for electricity. While Musk primarily promotes it as a way to store electricity generated from household-solar, the project also benefits those without energy generation equipment.

So what does this mean for YOU in Nova Scotia?

Well, probably not much. But it could in the future. Let me explain.

Unlike in California, the adoption of solar technology in Nova Scotia has been limited. Utility-scale solar power plants have not been constructed, partially due to the government not establishing a Feed-in Tariff rate that would make the project economical for investors.

Halifax has a Solar City Program that allows residents to apply and have the municipality's experts walk them through the process of installing solar panels on their homes. Established in December 2012, the program even provides a financing option for successful applicants.

Nova Scotia Power has an Enhanced Net Metering Program that allows for residents to provide generated electricity to the grid. This allows residents to offset the cost of their power bill by the amount of electricity produced and fed back into the system. If you produce enough electricity, your bill can be neutral or Nova Scotia Power will pay you at the end of the year for energy produced.

For the Tesla Powerwall to really be beneficial to Nova Scotians, they would need to qualify for Nova Scotia Power's 'time-of-day' rates. Under this plan, you pay different amounts for the electricity you use depending on the time of day. That is because it is cheaper for the utility to produce electricity in off-peak hours rather than during the day when demand is higher.

Powerwall users would be able to take advantage of this program by storing energy in off-peak hours when the electricity is cheaper, and then using that stored electricity during the day when electricity is priced higher. Depending on the time of year, the standard rate (during the day/evening) is 86% greater than the off-peak rate (during the late evening/early morning). This could produce significant savings over the course of the year.

I calculated that the Powerwall would be able to reduce my electricity bill by 46% based on my consumption levels. That is largely because I consume a very low amount of electricity, so results would vary.

To qualify for Nova Scotia Power's 'time-of-day' rates, you must have an electric-based space heating system. With the benefits that Tesla's Powerwall and other battery storage systems can have for ratepayers, I hope that Nova Scotia Power changes its criteria to be approved for this rate-structure.

Nova Scotians face some of the highest electricity rates in the country and it's doubtful that will change anything soon. For those looking to reduce their monthly payments to Nova Scotia Power, Tesla's new Powerwall may eventually offer an opportunity to do just that.

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