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Who has net metering, and why does it matter?

7/17/2008 12:02:00 PM

Tags: net metering, electricity, renewable energy, solar, wind

Can you afford solar-electric panels, or a backyard wind turbine? For a growing number of people, the answer is yes.

But how you answer that question depends a lot on your state's net metering laws, because this one policy makes it much easier to pay for home solar or wind-electric systems.

That’s because net metering policies allow you to sell any extra electricity you produce back to the utility at the retail rate. It’s a simplified billing process where when you’re drawing electricity from the grid, your electric meter spins forward; when you’re producing electricity that you’re not using, your meter spins backward.

Energy MeterIf you don’t have net metering, the utility can charge you more for the electricity you buy than you get for the electricity you produce. For a grid-connected wind or solar system, that makes a huge difference in how quickly the system pays for itself in reduced electric bills.

Currently, most U.S. states have net metering laws, although they don't all make it equally easy to connect to the grid. For more specifics on state policies, check out this list from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE). Only eight states don’t have net metering laws: Alaska, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina.

Fortunately, more states are passing net metering laws all the time. So if you want net metering and don’t have it, let your state legislators know!

Photo by Michael Braun/Istockphoto 

Megan E. Phelps is a freelance writer based in Kansas. She enjoys reading and writing about all things related to sustainable living including homesteading skills, green building and renewable energy. You can find her on .

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8/14/2008 9:46:47 PM
Note that while Tennessee may not have a law requiring net metering,TVA, which provides most of the power that local utilities sell, is really big on it. As a result many, if not most, local utilities here offer net metering. For an example of this please see my local utility, Nashville Electric with their Generation Partner program.

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