How much of your own electricity can you generate with solar power? If you have enough space on your roof, you can cover all your electricity use.

But you may have noticed that the sun doesn’t shine all the time. It has this habit of setting every single night! What do you do if you want to power your home with solar at night, when the sun isn’t shining?

Solar net metering to the rescue

solar net metering

That’s where solar net metering comes in. Also known as net energy metering, or NEM, this is the mechanism that lets you keep using clean solar power for your home — even when the sun isn’t shining.

Net metering is like rollover minutes on a cell phone bill — except the extra solar power you generate is the rollover minutes, and your electric bill is your cell phone bill.

Here’s how it works: Your solar system generates the most energy in the middle of the day. That’s when you’re likely to be out. Without some way to store this energy, you’d end up wasting it. If you’re off the grid and using batteries to store your excess power, you can use it later. But most of us are connected to a power grid — and batteries aren’t really ready for prime time just yet.

With net metering, you don’t need a battery. Net metering basically lets you use the electric grid as your battery backup. You simply feed any excess power you generate back into the grid. You get a credit for that power on your electric bill, and you can use that credit later, when the sun goes down.

Why solar net metering is so important

solar net metering

Without net metering, you’d waste a lot of solar power during the day — which would mean wasting money. Even if you covered your roof with solar panels, without net metering you wouldn’t be able to generate all of your own electricity. Without net metering, solar just wouldn’t make financial sense for most people.

Net metering is what’s allowed solar to develop, and kept it going strong, in over 40 states. The image above shows where we have some kind of net metering policy in place.

It boils down to this: Net metering is a simple policy that gives you fair credit for the solar energy you produce. Without this fair credit, solar wouldn’t work for most people.

How states rate on solar net metering

solar net metering

Source: http://freeingthegrid.org/

It’s no coincidence that in states without solar net metering, or with weak net metering policies, solar has not taken off. And the states with good net metering policies, like California and New York, are some of the top solar states. Net metering isn’t the only important solar policy, but it’s up there.

What makes a net metering policy good or bad? An important component is what you get for your bill credit. For the bill credit to be fair, it should be the same as what you’d be paying your utility for electricity. This can get complicated by time-of-use rates, which set different electricity rates at different times of day. So it’s important to find out if your utility charges time-of-use rates, and how the net metering policy works in your area.

You can use the great interactive map at Freeing The Grid to get more details about net metering and other policies in your state. Keep in mind that policies are always changing. Net metering has come under attack around the country, and net metering policies are being changed in quite a few states.

Make net metering work for you

We’ll get into why net metering is changing in another post. For now, it’s important for you to know that net metering could change in your area — even if you live in a top solar state.

The best way to make the policy work for you is to go solar now! When net metering rules are changed, existing solar customers are usually grandfathered in under current rules.

If you’d like to find out more about net metering in your state, and whether going solar makes sense for you, contact a MyDomino energy savings concierge. There’s no time like the present to go solar!