Does Solar Net Metering Benefit Everyone?

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Sam Allcock

In recent times, there has been a notion among the population that solar energy raises the overall cost of power in the country. The notion is far from the truth.

The primary reason why many people are installing solar is to reduce the cost they pay for electricity. Apart from monetary savings, there are a myriad of benefits that users experience after installing solar panels.

Have you ever asked yourself what happens to excess power generated by solar power systems? Does all the green energy all go to waste? Well, there is an ingenious solution known as solar net metering.

Solar net metering is beneficial not only to homeowners who have solar panels but even the neighbors.

How Exactly does Solar Net Metering Work?

In America, most solar power systems are on-grid. It means that premises that have solar panels also have connections to the main power grid.

Excess power generated from solar panels on rooftops is exported back to the main power grid. When the power is being fed back to the grid, the meter spins backward. In some states, this means that you are earning credit from the utility company for the electricity you have supplied. States that have enforced net metering policies allow commercial and residential premises that generate excess power to export it to the utility grid.

These premises benefit from the solar net metering billing mechanism that credits the owners for the power exported to the grid. In some cases, the credit earned from feeding power to the grid can offset the power bills from the utility company.

Net metering normally occurs during the day. Essentially, this is when excess power is produced because of enough sunshine. The meter will be running backward, and credit is generated against the utility company. However, if the premise uses power from the utility company during the night, the meter will spin forward. The same applies during summer and winter. In summer, homeowners can generate surplus power. Consequently, they draw power from the main grid in winter due to limited sunshine.

In some cases, the consumers are only billed for the net energy they utilized. That is how some homeowners end up paying absolutely nothing at the end of the month.

Solar power systems on rooftops of homes, schools, or commercial buildings save costs for utility companies and communities. Let’s look at some of the benefits of net metering to the neighbourhood.

Three Ways in Which Net Metering Benefits all in the Community

a.     Increased savings: Consumption of energy is divided into peak and off-peak hours. Utility companies may be forced to fire up standby generators during peak hours to provide power to the community. Of course, this will be expensive. However, if solar panels kick in during peak hours and fill the power gap, the community will not be charged high power prices.

Moreover, by design, power from the solar power systems are utilized in the neighborhood. The customers’ load determines the power distribution, with larger consumers getting the bulk of the power. Therefore, they benefit more from solar net metering.

Finally, when utility companies upgrade the grid, they pass the cost to the community. With net metering, there is no urgent need to upgrade power systems. This means that power rates will remain stable and consistent for the neighborhood.

b.       Protection of the power grid: The proliferation of solar power systems across the country has saved our national power grid. Solar power is forming a considerable portion of the energy produced in the country. That fact translates to reduced urgency in building and upgrading transmission lines.

Additionally, when the surplus power is fed back to the grid, this power is used locally in the community. Therefore, there is reduced congestion on the power transmission line. Moreover, there is a reduced loss of power due to distribution and transmission.

The neighborhood will experience less frequent power outages caused by blackouts or upgrades.

The government and the utility companies, in turn, save billions because of fewer upgrades. Solar panels have a lifespan ranging from 20-25 years. This means that with the ever-expanding solar industry, the grid will be safer for the foreseeable future.

c.       Safer neighborhood: Currently, challenges are facing our power grid. Some of these include old age, cyberterrorism, and climate change. Now more than ever, we are faced with hotter summers and storms that seem to get stronger each passing year. These challenges place an unprecedented strain on the power grid. To rectify all this, the government would have to spend lots of money. However, solar net metering also helps on this one.

Distributed solar energy diversifies our energy options. In case of catastrophic climate events or a cyber attack on the grid, solar power will easily step in. The power can be used locally, eliminating the need to build power lines to evacuate it.

More Benefits to the Community Other than Net metering

There are many more benefits that come about apart from solar net metering.

Residential and commercial premises that run on solar energy do not generate any toxic emissions or pollutants. These pollutants result from burning fossil fuels and fracking. Lesser harmful emissions mean better health for families in the community, reducing the cost of healthcare.

Solar-powered homes reduce the power transmitted on the grid. Most of this power is generated through non-renewable methods, which contribute to high levels of carbon emissions. Solar energy plays a critical role in the diversification of the community energy supply and reducing pollution.

In the United States, Massachusetts and California lead the way in job creation in the solar industry. For instance, Massachusetts has created over 15,000 jobs based on solar power. Nationally, there are over 174,000 people in the solar power industry. In the neighborhood, most jobs will involve installation, repair, and maintenance.

Owners of solar power systems reap a lot of benefits from solar net metering. Reduced power cost is a direct benefit of solar energy. However, communities also enjoy some benefits.

Many studies have been carried out on the effect of solar net metering on the neighborhood. For instance, in Nevada, the utilities commission found out that solar energy will benefit ratepayers by more than $30 million in the next few years. The results heavily favour solar net metering and its benefit to the community.  More so, it is clear that non-solar consumers also stand to reap benefits from solar panels on rooftops of buildings nearby.


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