Posted: Tuesday, 4/11/17 @ 3pm EST
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) explains net metering as:
"a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. For example, if a residential customer has a PV system on the home's rooftop, it may generate more electricity than the home uses during daylight hours. If the home is net-metered, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against what electricity is consumed at night or other periods where the home's electricity use exceeds the system's output. Customers are only billed for their "net" energy use. On average, only 20-40% of a solar energy system’s output ever goes into the grid. Exported solar electricity serves nearby customers’ loads."
Basically, when you have a solar system installed, the electric company installs a meter that can "tick backwards" allowing you to "store" the excess energy you produce for use during non-sunlight hours. Many solar panel system owners are at work during the day when a solar system typically produces the most energy. While you may not be using that energy, your utility let's you use it later in the day or at night. If you produce more energy than you use in a month, you'll see that your total usage is negative. Utilities determine this by taking the current reading and subtracting the previous reading for a total usage calculation.
Net metering is a very important factor to consider when going solar. If net metering doesn't exist (it is available in Massachusetts, except some municipalities - please check your municipal utility company to see if they allow net metering), then the excess energy isn't accepted by the utility and you won't be able to use the additional energy you produced. However, this shouldn't detract you from going solar, but it should be taken into account when determining how big your solar system should be. If there is no net metering, then you wouldn't want a system that produces more than your average monthly electric usage.
Want to learn more? Fill out our form to the right and we will give you a call to discuss your specific situation. Remember, aside from net metering, you also have access to a 30% federal tax credit, up to $1,000 state tax credit (in Massachusetts) and SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Credits). Check out our other blog posts for more information about those.
Director of Marketing at Boston Solar