To: MPs for all parties.

The Right to Light

Dear Minister/Senator/Member of Parliament


Having lived off grid for 20 years in Musquodoboit Harbour prior to moving to Dartmouth, we have now built a new home that is modest in size and, after 2 years, proving to be truly net zero.
My reason for writing is to raise the  most important part of the development of solar energy as part of our everyday lives, access to solar energy.
A number of jurisdictions around the world are implementing rules based upon the concept of 'Right to Light'. In simple terms, this means that every property owner has title to their solar exposure, the solar energy that falls upon their property. This has an ever more quantifiable value as it is a resource that could be used to heat and power that property.
In our last house, we heated our home using 20% passive solar, 40% active solar and 40% using a high efficiency wood heater. We generated 95% of our electrical consumption using solar PV and wind. Due to the siting of the property, no one was able to block our access to the solar energy falling on our home.
Our new home in Dartmouth that was intended to achieve Net Zero using a very high performance envelope and solar PV. 

Following the start of our build the property next door was sold and the new owners have now erected a large commercial structure. This occurred without notice to ourselves or the other property owners immediately affected by the proximity of the structure or the solar shading. The property allowed development 'by right' so there was no opportunity to discuss or comment.
We succeeded in finding a sufficient solar window to achieve net zero. We now face another close development, a 13 story high rise that will affect us and many other homes and businesses without protection or redress.
This is not simply an issue for my wife and myself, this is an issue that has impact across the country. As an example I have 2 children with homes in the city, one in Halifax and one in Dartmouth.
Due to the construction of a very large high rise across the railway tracks, the Halifax family now loose 2-3 hours of solar exposure every day. This energy had been heating their domestic water as they had invested in solar water heating to reduce their electrical consumption. The other daughter's house is facing a similar issue in the future.
If you truly want to implement a long term solar benefit, then it is time to entrench the 'Right to Light' into legislation. The basics are pretty simple; every property has a demonstrable solar footprint on which sunlight will shine. This is measured in watts/area of coverage/day averaged over a year to produce a value and there are lots of stats and models to manage this information. In the event any development is proposed, then the developer and, arguably, the regulator will be responsible for purchasing or renting a solar easement equal to the loss of light from the property owner affected.
This would be an inherent asset in the title regardless of the actual use made of this solar footprint.
To make this really simple, no one can benefit from a property owner's asset without an agreement in the form of an easement.

There are a number of other issues to be addressed if you want Canada to become a leader in sustainable living such as improving housing performance across the board and taking control of the grid but leading the way on a viable and fair Right to Light piece of legislation would really raise the bar. It needs to be enshrined in the Charter of Rights for everyone.





Why is this important?

There are many reasons to support adding the right to solar light to the Charter of Rights in Canada. 
First, solar access is extremely valuable to the individuals who have it. The
quality and amount of sunlight which reaches a structure’s interior, for
example, affects three economic measures: the resale price of the structure, as
buyers will pay premiums for naturally lit space; the productivity of the
structure’s occupants, who work better with sunlight than artificial light; and
the operating costs of heating, cooling, and lighting systems. Similarly, the
use of sunlight in outdoor areas can have financial consequences: a property
owner can grow garden vegetables, produce commercial crops for resale, or
use sunlight instead of electricity to dry laundry − all of which save or generate
income. Perhaps most importantly, solar collectors, for which sunlight is the
primary and essential ingredient, almost always save owners more in energy
costs than the purchase price, and rapid technological developments have rendered them increasingly more valuable and will continue to do so in years
to come. The recognition that solar access has value to individuals must
serve as the basis for any solar rights regime.

 A chorus of commentators writing thirty years ago praised solar energy and solar collectors and called our failure to recognize solar rights “an impediment to widespread conversion to solar energy, “The single most important legal issue concerning solar energy, and “the major legal issue associated with solar energy.” Although the need for guaranteed property rights in solar access has grown more acute, we have failed to modify the law to provide them.
It is a fundamental need for all humans, either directly or indirectly, no different than food and water.