Its balance of energy production and consumption. Net metering signs you up to earn credit for excess energy. For anyone looking to improve their home by adding solar, this is one of the important added benefits. Net metering put simply is a solar buyback program you sign up for just like your energy plans in the past. The major difference being net metering takes your new energy independence into account by tracking your net energy usage. Whereas with a traditional energy plan, you are solely a consumer constantly drawing energy from the grid. Solar gives you the freedom to produce your own energy.
With or without solar your energy needs always take top priority. Net metering allows you to capitalize on excess energy production after your needs are met. What net metering doesn’t do is limit your energy capabilities. Throughout the day your energy demands rise and fall as the AC comes on and off, the dishwasher is run or multiple devices are charging at once, to name a few. Meanwhile, your solar system works to maximize production and cover all your energy demands. At times when you are overproducing that energy doesn’t just disappear, it has to go somewhere. The only place it can go is to “the grid” where it is resold to someone currently using energy pulled from the powerlines. That is any home or building without solar, it could your neighbor or someone across town. As they benefit from your energy production you benefit from their consumption.
Every kWh of excess solar energy you send to the grid is counted by your net metering provider building up your energy credits. The exact value of credit earned depends on your provider, most offer a dollar for dollar or retail pricing per kWh produced and consumed. Essentially you are selling your solar, acting as an independent energy producer. Wondering where your solar paycheck is? Unfortunately, a rare few providers actually pay cash at the end of the month instead the credit is applied to your net monthly consumption. If at the end of the month you were a net producer your credits continue to build up and rolled over to next month’s bill. On occasion during times of peak usage, if your system can’t meet your demand energy is pulled from the grid to fill the demand gap. The grid is plan B so your power won’t go out and might be needed after consistent rainy or dark days. Another example would be at night when your solar isn’t able to produce.
This is when your built-up energy credits pay you back. At the end of the month, you are only charged when you are a net consumer and your credits don’t cover your current consumption demanded. If you produced more energy than you used then the remaining credits will transfer over to the next month and so on.
Net metering is even available for those whose solar solutions include an energy storage system. The only difference is the added step of charging the battery before sending the excess energy to the grid. In that case, the grid is basically your backup-backup plan. Energy storage is your first time of defense against lower production times and powering you during the night.