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.
If 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!