Net metering is a way to work with your local utility to store excess electricity produced by your panels during sunny summer months, to use on off-peak hours at night or when the sun is not shining. Nearly all states have some kind of net metering regulation on the books, but there can be some important differences that may affect how you configure your Katahdin Cedar Log Home.
What is Net Metering?
Net metering allows you to use your utility as a long-term battery for excess energy from your solar system or windmill. Basically, the electricity that comes from your panels first powers anything that is turned on in your home at the time it’s produced. Excess electricity is fed back into the utility’s grid, and the utility keeps track of your input into the system. Sometimes a single meter will handle the two directions of energy. In Maine, utilities install a second outflow meter to track the energy you put back into the utility grid.
Your home will tap into that reserve balance of energy during low solar or wind production times. When your solar panel array is sized properly, they should produce slightly less (annually) than you need to operate all the electrical in your home. The utility will generally charge a small fee for months where your contribution to the power grid is positive. Then during times when production is lower than your electrical needs the utility will deduct power from your solar account balance. Once your reserve is depleted, your electrical bill may be a little higher until your panels can catch up.
Where is Net Metering in Force?
Only three states have no net metering regulations: South Dakota, Tennessee, and Alabama. In states that address net metering, one of the biggest differences is whether the company provides net metering on a 1:1 ratio or whether they value the electricity coming from your solar array at less than the retail rate. Also a factor is how long customers can “roll over” their electricity credits— some states allow this indefinitely. Other states may put a time limit on the rollover period. For example, in Maine the expiration of a solar energy credit is one year after its generation. That’s one reason why sizing to produce just enough electricity for your home’s power demands is important!
Changes on the Horizon
In Maine, we’ve been following a recent controversial decision by the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to regulate how utilities are able to compensate solar energy providers. Up to this point, it’s been a fairly straightforward net metering relationship between utilities and their solar and windmill customers. The new rules allow for utilities to charge a fee or surtax for energy created “behind the meter” that is used directly by the homeowner. This transmission rate fee is facing a legislative test to overturn and modify these rules, which heavily favor the utility. According to Dylan Voorhees from the Maine Natural Resources Council, “It’s like your local grocery store charging you a fee for tomatoes you grew in your backyard.” In 2017, Maine legislators were unable to override a veto to address this regulation. In 2018, there is a bipartisan effort to pass revised regulations to address this negative development.
Overall Solar Assessment
While these potential changes to net metering seem challenging, it’s just one piece of the pie to consider. We like to think that in most cases, the positive benefits of designing solar into your home outweigh ups and downs in the regulatory market. Katahdin’s Solar Ready Home program links you with solar professionals from ReVision Energy to evaluate your home design, your lifestyle, your unique financial and energy balance. According to Fortunat Mueller, co-founder of ReVision Energy, the present solar policy still offers a favorable return on the long-term value and efficiency of your new home.