Are you looking at buying "CSA approved solar collectors". This article explains what is now in place in Canada with regard to Solar Water Heating.
The end of the ecoENERGY program.
The residential and commercial Eco ENERGY incentive programs are ending soon, 31st March is the deadline, after that, as far as we know there are no more Federal Solar Water heating incentive programs going to be announced anytime soon. There are a few provinces that have some local or provincial incentives still running but these are few and far between.
For the past few years, a list of the collectors that were acceptable to receive the incentive was maintained by NRCan. The NRCan list said that all collectors on this list "met CSA Standard F378-87 or equivalent". Latitude51 Solar were one of about 90 companies with a few collector models each who were on this approved list.
Note this line: it is important and has significant relevance later when the CSA basically admitted that NON of the Collectors on this list can be classed as "CSA approved"
The new CSA Listing of Solar Collectors in Canada
Late in 2009, all the companies that were on NRCan's list of approved collectors were notified that NRCan would soon be removing the list from their website and the CSA would be taking over hosting this list. NRCan reported that companies wishing to continue the listing would be required to re apply to the CSA and pay a $500 transfer fee. So far so good...
Latitude51 then asked the the CSA what was the purpose of the new CSA list. The CSA replied "you may want to direct your question to Natural Resources Canada."
At the time we didn't think much of this reply. A few more emails went back and forth to try and find out what the purpose of the new "CSA list was. Any response was, at best, ambiguous and evasive. However, we filled in the paperwork and reapplied for the listing.
Several months go by and no sign of the new listing, until September 2010 when we were finally sent the paperwork from the CSA. Buried in this paperwork was a comment that all invoices should be paid to CSA on demand.....
....a curious paragraph, but on asking for clarification on what fees they meant, we were sent an invoice saying on top of the $500 transfer fee, the CSA would be charging about $2500 per year to list Latitude51 Solar collectors on their new list.
This was the first time the CSA made any mention of any additional annual costs. A year of discussions and paperwork and just before they complete the process, they spring a few thousand dollars in fees on us.
These fees are dependant on the number of models of collectors a company wishes to list. We have had conversations with other companies in Canada who had the same experience with the CSA only they got quoted over $10,000 per year to list their collectors on the list. They were about as thrilled with the process as we were!
We asked again....what is the purpose of the new CSA "List"
Obviously, a few heated emails later we made some more inquiries as to what this "new CSA list" is and why we should pay the fees to list them, what benefit is there to either us or the public?
We asked why we had to pay another fee when the collectors on the "OLD NRCan list already met CSA Standard F378-87 or equivalent" as was stated on the NRCans website.
The reply below is direct from an email we received from their certification and testing group.
"...........I received a copy of your message from XXXX and there are a few things that need to be cleared up about the Verification Listing Program for Solar Collectors.
What you are applying to is an energy efficiency verification (EEV) program, not a certification program. The Verification Listing Program for Solar Collectors (Class 8854 01) is noticeably different from the Component Certification of Solar Collectors (Class 2381 36) as they do not have the same requirements........."
A couple emails and a phone call later to clarify this email and all was revealed!
These are not CSA listings for Solar Collectors in Canada!
Basically, what this person said was that this list is just that, a list.
A list of various solar collectors. Any company can apply and if they pay up several thousand dollars per year you can be put on the list. However, any collector on this list IS NOT "CSA APPROVED"
It seems that the only thing verified on the "Verification Listing Program for Solar Collectors" is that the our company checks are verified as being paid!
So, we asked, what's the point of charging about 90 companies between $2500 and $10,000 EACH per year to put their name on a list that does not certify anything or makes no guarantees to the public about the quality or safety of any of the collectors?
What is the list for then?
The response to this question was not forthcoming from the CSA but NRCan basically clarified this for us. All the list is for, is that IF in the future they bring back the commercial or residential solar hot water incentives then the requirement of that program MIGHT be that the collectors need to be on the "list".
OK.......is it for future Residential Solar Hot Water Incentives?
NRCan said that any new incentive might require that a companie's collectors are on the new "CSA list". However, as we detailed in a previous news letter about Canadian Solar Incentives, they already introduced a new CSA standard (F379) for complete (collectors, tank & pump) solar hot water systems for which, if you have this certification, you can claim $1250 in a rebate.
Hence any new residential incentive is likely to specify the system must meet the new Solar Hot Water System standard (F379)and NOT the new "CSA list".
This is already evident in Nova Scotia, where another company we have spoken to decided to pay for their collectors to be listed on the new "verification list". This was because Nova Scotia still had some provincial grants running that required any solar systems to be on the "verification list".
However, then all of a sudden, the town of Halifax said they would buy over a thousand solar systems for the public under a solar pilot project. However, all the systems must comply with the new F379 standard and NOT the "CSA verification list". This new standard will cost about $30,000 to apply for and take nearly 2 years to complete.
Hence listing on the "new verification list" was a waste of time for them.
A bureaucratic nightmare?
So lets sum this up........
- Any company thinking that by paying for a listing on the new "CSA verification list" means they can claim on their website that their collectors are CSA approved are WRONG.
As far as we have been told, this list means nothing - it is not "certifying" anything......by transferring this list to the CSA, NRCan handed the CSA a huge revenue to make a single webpage with some names on it.
The CSA are claiming the fees are for "licensing fees'" and "inspection fees" and "surveillance fees". But why, it points to a paper chase to add costs to the general public for NO BENEFIT!
We asked the CSA many times to clarify to us why we as a business should list on this "verification listing". So far we have not received any information that gives us any technical reason why we would benefit from it.
The public gets nothing out of it and the solar companies get nothing out of it except paperwork and fees.
- If a company claims their collectors are CSA approved, you need to ask for documentation to confirm what they mean by "CSA approved", because if their collectors are simply on the "list" then they are NOT CSA APPROVED, they could be selling products under the false assumption, even if they are unwittingly doing so.
- The exact purpose of this "CSA List" is very clouded in confusion and not everyone, even very few solar companies, know what they are paying for!
- As far as we can tell, the new list is simply in case in future the Government decided to re-introduce the COMMERCIAL SOLAR incentive program.
Are Latitude51 Solar Collectors on the list?
Some companies who decide it is worth them being on the list, might do so because their customers can still claim any local or provincial solar incentives.
In Alberta, there are no solar grants left running so there is no point for us to be on the "list".
So in a word no - we paid for the application but when we had the thousands of dollars in extra fees sprung on us, and we found out what the list actually meant, we decided to hold off on the listing. Its simply hard to justify.
What this means to you - the home or business owner?
Do not buy a collector just because it is on this new "list" - from what the CSA told us this does NOT mean you will be buying a CSA approved solar collector.
The original Solar Hot Water Collector list had a list of about 90 companies on, and if any of those companies is not on the new "verification list" this just means they decided not to pay for the new listing. No additional testing or certification has been performed for the new list - the collectors are exactly the same as they were.
Base your decision to purchase on the performance of the solar collectors.