Palmetto’s Guide to Net Metering for Home Solar (abridged)

Net Metering

Net Metering is a program that allows you to send extra solar energy that your solar panels generate back into the electric grid. In return, you earn credit that you can use to offset the cost of electricity you pull from the grid in the future.

Each electric utility operates its own net metering program and has a cap to the program so space is limited.

How is net metering measured?

With net energy metering, you are billed for the “net” energy used. Net energy is the difference between the total energy produced by a solar power system, and the total energy consumed by the home. Your electricity meter keeps track of the excess power fed to the grid, and power that’s drawn from the grid when your home needs more electricity, and comparing these amounts gives you the net energy usage.

Because net solar metering only credits you for energy fed into the grid, you won’t receive a cash payment from your utility for the extra electricity — regardless of how much you generate. Instead, you will build up credit for every watt you send to the grid, and use those credits to offset your costs when you draw watts from the grid. This lowers the overall cost of your electricity bill. In Washington the net meter is reset to Zero every March 31st to avoid an annual accrual of credits.

How does net metering work?

Is net metering like going off grid?

No, net metering isn’t the same as going off the grid, but it does change your relationship with your utility. With an off-grid solar energy system, you are not connected to a utility’s grid, so you are completely reliant on the sun to power your home. In order to power your home when your solar panels aren’t producing electricity, like at nighttime, you need to have a way to store excess electricity generated during the daylight hours, like a solar battery storage system. You won’t have access to extra electricity from the grid if you need it — you will only have access to what is generated by your system and stored in batteries.

If you opt for an off-grid solar power system and don’t have a backup generator, you will only have electricity when:

  • The sun is shining and your solar panels are producing electricity.
  • You have stored electricity from your solar panels in batteries.

If you decide to stay on-grid (grid-tied) you will always have access to electricity, even if your solar panels aren’t generating power, and the cost of any electricity you pull from the grid can be offset with your net metering credits. The only time you won’t be able to access utility electricity is when the grid goes down, and if you decide to include battery backup in your solar power system, you can even have electricity through those times as well.

Will I receive a paycheck from net metering?

No, you won’t get a paycheck from solar net metering. You will only receive energy credits on your bill or statement that you can apply towards the electricity you need in the future.

Benefits of net metering

  • Save on your utility bill
  • Speed up your payback period
  • The grid acts like a virtual energy storage (of credits to use later)
  • Reduces pressure on the grid

Is net metering available in my area?

If you live in Washington, then most likely the answer is YES.

Check out your electric utility’s own website for more information. If you don’t see your utility listed here then contact us and we’ll help out.

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