January 20, 2016
Sometimes solar panel jargon can get in the way of a great opportunity to cut electricity bills. Today’s Eco Brief on Net Metering is here to help you better understand this essential concept in residential and commercial solar.
Net energy metering, or net metering, is when you generate electricity with solar or other residential renewables and send what you don’t use into the grid. It’s called net metering because the electricity going out from your home and the electricity coming in from utilities goes through the same meter. What you pay for is the net consumption: what you use minus what you generate.
As opponents of renewable progress like to point out, the sun isn’t always going to shine. Sometimes there will be clouds and every night there will be, well, night. But that’s one of the wonderful things about net metering. While you’re at work, your solar panels are soaking up the rays and sending out power to offset your nighttime use.
Though it depends on how many panels you are operating, the amount of sunlight those panels receive, and how much electricity your home uses, it is possible to consistently produce more energy than you consume. If you’re net-negative on your use (you have put more into the grid than you have consumed from it), you can earn credit for future bills.
45 states have adopted net metering policies, including a recent addition: Mississippi. These policies entail compensation plans and production caps, among other rules to organize and in many cases expand the use of net metering. You can look up your state’s policies and relative standing as a promoter of solar via these policies here.
If you are purchasing solar panels, the only other equipment needed for net metering is the meter. An alternative to a net metering system is a home battery, such as the the Tesla Powerwall. Devices like these can store electricity from solar panels and from utilities at lower, off-peak prices. Unfortunately, these are very expensive compared to net metering devices.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Michael Coghlan, Flickr/redjar