Over the past decade, the concurrent rise in concern over
environmental degradation and the increasing cost of electricity
bills has driven many Americans to look to solar power to reduce
both pollution and expense.
Solar installation costs continue to drop, and at the same
time, new business models like third-party-owned solar take away
the high upfront cost for homeowners. With these models, a solar
provider owns and maintains the system on your roof and you just
pay a low rate for the power.
The cornerstone policy driving solar expansion is called net
energy metering, or NEM. Net metering exists in 43 states
and is currently under attack in many of them, so it's important
to understand what this valuable service is and how it can reduce
costs for all utility customers and citizens, not just
those who install solar or other clean energy sources.
What is net metering?
With NEM, customers with distributed energy systems like solar
panels or wind turbines get full credit for the excess energy
they feed on to the electric grid. For example, if they are away
during the day when their solar panels are producing power, that
power goes to the grid for the utility to sell to others, and the
solar homeowner gets full retail credit for that electricity.
When they start using power at night from the grid, they get to
use up their credit before paying for additional usage. It
provides the utility with on-site, clean electricity during peak
usage periods when they need it most, and it benefits
Net energy metering is often likened to rollover minutes that
many Americans receive from their cell-phone service providers,
where allotted minutes that aren't used one month "roll over" to
the next so that customers don't lose them.
Why are utility companies opposed to NEM?
Utility companies don't like net metering because the more people
use alternative energy sources like rooftop solar, the less
electricity they buy from the utility. This affects utilities'
growth. They are trying to eliminate NEM to protect their
profits. In fact, a report issued recently by the
utilities' trade association, Edison Electric Institute, calls
distributed solar, energy efficiency, and conservation a "vicious
cycle." Many groups that support renewable energy are fighting
back against utility companies' efforts to end NEM programs. For
example,The Alliance for Solar Choice was formed in 2013 to
protect NEM in California and beyond.
What are potential benefits of net energy metering for
Obviously, NEM offers substantial utility cost savings to people
who have made the investment in distributed energy sources,
such as solar and wind energy technology for their homes. But
it's a misconception to think that they are the only ones
benefiting from NEM. Studies show that net energy metering
benefits all consumers and citizens. For example:
1. NEM reduces energy costs for all utility customers,
even those who don't own renewable energy systems.
A study from Crossborder Energy shows that net metering
will save California ratepayers $92.2 million when it's fully
subscribed at 5% of peak demand; it would save Arizona
Public Service customers $34 million per year. Though not yet
used extensively, NEM is becoming increasingly beneficial in
reducing costs for all energy consumers.
2. NEM reduces the need for dirty energy production,
which leads to cleaner air and water.
Pollution-emitting energy production is a threat to public
health; NEM provides a substantial incentive for consumers to
install clean energy systems, which results in cleaner water and
air. Some California physicians feel so strongly about the health
benefits provided by NEM and rooftop solar that they have joined
with the solar energy community to form CAUSE, Californians
Against Utilities Stopping Solar Energy. The group aims to
prevent utility companies from eliminating NEM.
3. NEM helps support the solar industry, which provides
The solar and clean energy industries are widely believed to be
the wave of the future, and NEM helps encourage their growth. The
more these industries expand, the more jobs they'll provide. For
example, it's estimated that NEM has directly or indirectly
created 43,000 jobs in California's burgeoning solar
4. NEM reduces energy costs for major public
institutions, such as schools.
Many public institutions such as schools, libraries, and
government buildings are some of the heaviest users of power in
their communities, as the buildings are often old and
energy-inefficient. NEM can substantially reduce costs for these
public agencies; it's expected to save California's public
schools and public agencies approximately $2.5 billion over the
next 25 to 30 years.
It's clear that NEM offers both economic and health benefits
to consumers and citizens in areas that use it. If you feel
strongly about NEM, sign this petition on Change.org for fair
compensation to residents who produce energy.
Your body, your wallet, and your community will thank you for
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