November 7, 2016

Where the ABCs of Private Solar Impact Your Power Bill

Heath Knakmuhs

Should you care about net metering?  Whether you are interested in solar energy or not, the answer is YES. 

Over the past couple of months, we have explained the concept of “net metering” through visuals that demonstrate that while everyone connected to the power grid benefits from it, outdated policies enable private solar customers to skip out on their fair share of grid costs.

First, we illustrated that when your neighbor professes to go “off the grid” with his shiny new solar panels, he actually is doing no such thing.  Instead, he continues to rely on the grid to sell excess power, supplement his private solar’s electricity output, and to power his entire household when the sun is unavailable.  At all times, a private solar homeowner remains connected to, and dependent upon, the electric grid.

Second, we demonstrated that while all homeowners use the electric grid, those with private solar are only billed for a small portion of the associated grid costs.  The homeowner without private solar pays his fair share, but over time is forced to pay even more to make up for the fixed grid operation and maintenance costs that are avoided by private solar customers.  This second graphic in our “ABCs of Net Metering” series illustrates how outdated net metering policies enable private solar customers to avoid their fair share of grid costs.

Does net metering impact your electricity bill?  It most certainly does.

Unless you live in Alabama, South Dakota, or Tennessee, some form of private solar “net metering” compensation rules are applicable in your state.  While the cost shifts perpetuated by outdated net metering policies may vary from state to state, any such policies that shift a disproportionate share of grid costs onto homeowners without private solar could be draining your wallet. 

In some states, unfair solar subsidies are on the ballot.  While interests on both sides of the solar debate may seek to frame such initiatives in an unfair light, an astute voter will look deeper to see whether a “yes” or “no” vote will serve to protect all consumers from unfair cross-subsidies.  Outdated net metering policies require reform in order to continue the expansion of renewable electricity options without unduly burdening those who choose to rely on the grid for all of their electricity needs.

Luckily, net metering policies can be updated without the need to wait for the next big election.  Local and state officials have the power to ensure that net metering policies are fair to ALL homeowners. 

So if you want to ensure everyone who uses the electricity grid is paying their fair share, look into your state’s net metering policies.  Only by knowing your ABCs can you protect your wallet.