The Solar City program offers property owners access to innovative solar energy options, which can be financed through a solar collector account with the Halifax Regional Municipality. Property owners individually select their preferred solar energy system and service providers for assessments and installations as part of the financing program administered by the municipality.
How does the program work?
The Solar City program involves a voluntary financing application where property owners enter into an agreement with the municipality to access funds that offset the capital costs of installing solar energy systems on their property. The municipality places a voluntary Local Improvement Charge (LIC) on the property after the solar contractor is paid at the end of the project. The LIC is an additional annual charge and is separate from the property owner’s annual property tax bill. This LIC mechanism is described in detail in Solar City By-law S-500 [PDF].
The LIC payments are made over a period of 10 years at a fixed interest rate (4.75%) with the option for the property owner to pay the balance in full and subsequently remove the lien at any time without penalty. The charge for the solar energy system is applied to the property, not the individual. If a property owner moves before the financing is repaid, the property owner has the choice of paying the remaining balance off in full at the point of sale, without penalty, or transferring the charge to the next property owner as long as both parties agree to the transfer.
How do I determine if I am eligible to participate in the program?
You are eligible for the program if the following conditions are met:
1. All residential taxes are paid in full as well as any other fees and charges which are invoiced separately through the tax account, i.e. false alarms, unsightly premises, curbside garbage pickup, deferred regional development charge, etc.
2. Solar pilot program (SLC) and/or LIC, (road improvements, sewer and/or water installations) must either be paid in full, or are being paid per the annual billing cycle or other authorized payment plan and are up-to-date.
Not sure your account is up-to-date? Register for the program anyway and someone from HRM finance will confirm for you.
How do I participate in the program?
Step 1: Register
- Property owner registers online for the program
- Solar City program office confirms property owner eligibility
After registering you will receive an email confirming your information has been received and your property is under review to determine your eligibility to participate in the program. If your property account is in good standing you will receive another email with a unique Solar City project identification number (ID) and instructions on how to proceed with your project.
Step 2: Select a solar contractor
- Property owner contacts solar contractors to obtain a solar system energy proposal that best meets their energy consumption habits.
- When satisfied with a solar energy system proposal the property owner emails the Solar City office with the selection
- It is recommended you discuss pest protection with your selected contractor. In some locations, birds have been found to nest under the panels.
After receiving a unique Solar City project ID the next step is to select a solar contractor to complete a detailed solar energy assessment. The municipality is not responsible for selecting a contractor on your behalf, it is your sole responsibility to follow best practices while selecting a reputable contractor to complete the work. A list of Atlantic Canadian solar companies registered with Solar Nova Scotia is available. If you intend on installing a solar electric system and obtaining the SolarHomes rebate, you are required to select an approved contractor from the Efficiency Trade Network.
Step 3: Solar contractor review and property owner agreement
- Solar City office completes a detailed third party review of chosen solar contractor and system proposal.
- Solar City office approves financing for the proposed project and forwards the property owner a Solar City Participant Agreement for review and signature.
Once you've selected the perfect solar energy system and contractor, it's time to take a break and let the Halifax Solar City program staff take over! Staff will reach out to your chosen solar contractor and perform a detailed technical review to ensure the contractor:
- Has third party liability insurance and is in good standing with the Workers Compensation Board;
- Has applied for mandatory building and electrical permits;
- Is supplying certified equipment for use in Nova Scotia; and
- Has supplied the property owner with an accurate solar energy assessment that meets Solar City Program criteria
If all the conditions are met, financing for the project will be approved and you will receive a Solar City Participant Agreement for review and signature. The agreement must be signed and returned to the Solar City office within 30 days upon receipt.
Step 4: System Installation
- Solar contractor proceeds with the solar energy system installation
After the project has been approved, the property owner can move ahead with the selected solar contractor to complete the work at the property. The property owner should enter a separate installation and maintenance agreement with the solar contractor. It is the responsibility of the property owner to ensure the work completed is of high quality and meets solar industry standards.
The separate agreement should outline:
- Project costs
- Installation schedule
- Equipment specifications
- Equipment warranties
- Operation and maintenance plan
Step 5: Project close out
- Solar contractor completes and submits the signed Certification of Completion to the Solar City office along with proof of passed final inspections and monitoring access information (if applicable)
- Solar City office reviews and approves the Certification of Completion
The Certification of Completion is an integral component of the reporting and due diligence process of the Solar City program. The solar contractor will not be reimbursed for the completed work until the certificate is completed and approved by the Solar City office.
The Certification of Completion includes:
- Description of the work completed and in a final cost summary
- Indication of any changes between the proposed and installed systems (equipment, costs, savings, etc.).
- Data monitoring and access information
- Final solar contractor invoice (installation and equipment summary)
- All applicable permits and proof of final inspections (HRM Solar Building Permit, Electrical Permit)
Step 6: Payment
- Solar City program office reimburses solar contractors for work completed
- Property owner receives a Local Improvement Charge (LIC) invoice and Schedule of Payments from the municipality
Upon approval of the Certification of Completion, the municipality will reimburse the solar contractor directly.
The Solar City office will then provide the municipal revenue department with the amount billed. A Local Improvement Charge (LIC) invoice and a Schedule of Payments will be prepared and mailed to you. The first (1st) installment is due six (6) weeks after the invoice has been mailed. Interest is calculated on the total Principal due at a 4.75% annual interest rate which is applied to the account on a daily basis. This lienable charge is amortized over a ten (10) year period and is separate from your property tax account. There is no online payment option but you may contact the revenue department to discuss other options available, including bi-weekly or monthly Pre-Authorized Payments (PAP). An email address and phone number contact will be listed on the letter which accompanies the LIC invoice and staff will assist you with your payment decision. Please note the municipality collects payments in the same manner, and the charge is subject to the same penalties, remedies and lien priorities as property taxes. The outstanding balance of the LIC charge can be repaid at any time, without penalty.
What are the expected costs and savings?
Property owners can select their preferred solar energy system and solar contractor which will result in varying system costs and savings. It is up to you to determine your ability to repay the approved system based on the solar energy assessment provided by your solar contractor. The solar energy assessment provides an analysis that considers the savings over time and predicts an eventual positive cash flow over the life of the installation.
Overall energy cost savings are estimated to increase over time due to the inevitable cost increase of traditional heating and electricity sources. When the system is paid off, you will benefit from 100 percent of the savings.
The sample payment and interest chart below provides an indication of what LIC payments could look like over the 10-year repayment period with a 4.75% fixed interest rate, with the principal project cost of $15,000.00. For this example, the property owner was billed on December 18, 2017 and the first installment is due January 29, 2018 (six weeks after the invoicing date), the last installment would be due January 29, 2028.
Note: interest begins accruing daily on the account from this date. Any payments made before or after the annual payment due date will decrease/increase the interest portion and the total of the payment date.