Net Metering: a Key Policy that Helps You Balance your Solar-Electricity Use

Reader Contribution by Vikram Aggarwal
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When you install solar panels at your home or business, you’re building a sustainable energy resource right on your own property. But did you know that most homes with solar panel systems still remain connected to the electric grid?

Unless you install an energy storage option like the Tesla Powerwall, you’ll need access to an electricity source other than solar when the sun isn’t shining. Thanks to a utility program called net metering, you can easily power your house with solar electricity throughout the year.

How net metering works with solar panels

Net metering solves a fundamental problem with home solar: Your solar panels can only produce electricity when the sun is shining, but you still need lights and power for your refrigerator and other necessary appliances throughout the night.

As a result, your solar electricity production won’t perfectly match your day-to-day needs. To ensure that you can cover your electricity use with solar throughout the entire year, your solar installer will design a system that produces more electricity than you need when the days are sunny and long. When you produce excess kilowatt-hours (kWh) of solar electricity at your home, they are fed back into the electric grid and sent where they are needed.

For every kWh of solar electricity you send back to the grid, you receive a net metering credit on your electricity bill. You can think of these credits as electricity “in the bank.” Then, when your panels aren’t producing as much electricity as you need for your home – for example, during the night or during overcast winter days – you draw from your “bank” of solar power credits to cover the difference. 

This whole process is known as net metering, and it helps you spread your solar energy use throughout the year. As an added benefit, because you’re still connected to the grid, you don’t have to worry about carefully managing every kWh of electricity you produce and use at your home. In the event that your panels don’t produce as much as you need, you can simply buy electricity from your utility.

Is net metering available near you?

Luckily, net metering is available in almost every state, with a few exceptions. Georgia, Hawaii, and Mississippi don’t have net metering, but they do have alternative programs with similar benefits. Alabama, South Dakota, and Tennessee are the only states that don’t offer net metering or a program like it.

In California, there are programs for Pacific Gas & Electric net metering, San Diego Gas & Electric net metering, and Southern California Edison net metering, among others. These three utilities cover the majority of California homeowners and businesses.

However, net metering programs aren’t just available in the big solar states like California – smaller solar markets across the country have access to this great solar incentive. Rocky Mountain Power net metering covers Idaho, Utah and Wyoming, while Nevada residents have access to NV Energy net metering. U.S. homeowners and businesses across the Southeast have net metering through Duke Energy, among others.

These are just a few examples of net metering programs across the country. Chances are good that your utility offers it too, unless you live in one of the states where it isn’t available. If you aren’t sure, contact your utility to confirm. 

Use net metering as a tool to easily shrink your carbon footprint

When you choose solar power, you are reducing your carbon footprint by running your home on zero-emissions electricity. Thanks to net metering, installing solar panels at your home ensures that you’ll get the maximum benefit – you just need to make sure you find the right solar installer for the job. By joining the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can find pre-vetted solar installers near you and compare all of their offers side-by-side to find the best deal on a long-lasting, sustainable, and reliable solar energy system. 

Vikram Aggarwal is the founder and chief executive of  EnergySage, the online solar marketplace. EnergySage simplifies the process of researching and shopping for solar. By offering shoppers more choices and unprecedented levels of transparency, EnergySage allows consumers to select the option that provides the best value for them, quickly and easily. Read all of Vikram’s posts here.

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