You know that it pays to switch to a renewable energy source, but it turns out that solar can save you money in more than one way.
Install solar. Insert plug. Run your house on the power of the sun. Simple, right? Well, if that were the case, you’d only get a fraction of the full benefit of your solar panels. In Vermont, that’s where net metering comes in.
Why We Need Net Metering
The sun has the capacity to provide a ton of energy—enough to continuously run a 25-inch TV on every square inch of the earth and then some. But, in the real world, the hours that the sun is up and the hours when our homes need the most juice don’t always overlap. Think about it—you don’t need all your lights on when there’s plenty of natural light streaming in or when you’re at work. (And on the flip side, ever wonder how much power you used to watch The Office on Netflix until bed?)
Fortunately, Vermont’s net metering system ensures that your wallet sees the full benefit of going solar.
What Is Net Metering?
A solar array produces power (measured in kilowatt-hours, or kWh) during the day. Some of this energy feeds the devices and appliances in your home in real-time. (Even if you’re not home, things like your fridge, computers, or modem still use power.)
But, when the sun is at its peak, your system generates far more kilowatts than you need. With net metering, this energy doesn’t go to waste. It feeds back into the grid, so other folks in your area can run their homes on green energy. Importantly, you get paid the power you supply by the utility company. Your meter counts the kilowatt-hours and your utility company credits your electric bill for the corresponding amount.
Then, when the sun goes down or during times of lower solar production, like winter, the energy you use from the grid is largely or entirely paid for by the credits you’ve accumulated during the day or summer.
Net Metering by State
Net metering rates vary state by state. And the net metering rates in Vermont tip the scales in your favor. Unlike in other states, the electric company pays you more for your solar energy than what you pay them for their grid energy. This premium is set at 2 cents per kWh for the first 10 years. This may sound like pennies, but over thousands of kWh over the entire year, it adds up. It is worth noting that this premium is set to drop to 1 cent later in 2020, so now is a good time to lock in your net metering rate.
Many other states are a one-to-one system, and some states under-value solar energy compared to the cost of grid energy.
Are there any other net metering fees to know about?
Most utilities have a small, one-time set-up fee for starting a net metering account. Otherwise, net metering means that you’ve largely eliminated your electric bill.
By Julia Westbrook