This article will teach you everything you need to know about how net metering works in Florida. Net metering is essential because it is the only way for home solar to work out economically. Let’s start with the basics.
What Is Net Metering?
Net metering is an accounting system for energy which allows you to trade excess solar energy to your utility in exchange for credits you can use to buy energy from the utility later.
Why Is Net Metering Important?
Net metering is important because it protects you from solar power’s inconsistencies. Solar power systems generally produce more power than you need during the day and not enough in the evenings and at night. Net metering allows you to maintain a continuous stream of electricity no matter whether the sun is currently shining or not.
From a policy perspective, net metering is important because it is not in the best interests of utility companies but in the best interest of solar customers. Net metering is protected by law in Florida and elsewhere. All Florida utilities, including Florida Power & Light (FPL), Duke Energy, and the Orlando Utilities Commission support net metering.
The Basics of How Net Metering Works
For most homeowners, the goal of going solar is to achieve net zero. Net zero means that, during an average month, your solar array will produce the same amount of energy that your home consumes.
Since solar produces energy at different times than it is needed, net zero does not mean that all the power being used by your home is coming straight from your panels at any given moment. Net zero is achievable with solar because of net metering.
Net metering is the sale of excess energy back to the utility during solar overproduction (at noon when no one is home) and the purchase of energy back from the utility during solar underproduction (such as at night). In Florida, all of our major utilities support net metering.
In Florida, this exchange happens at a one-to-one rate, meaning that customers buy energy from the utility (like FPL) at the same cost they sell the excess for. There is no net cost to the consumer for selling and buying a unit of energy based on the net metering policies of FPL and in Florida at large.
As a solar owner, what you see as a result of net metering is a statement on your monthly utility bill which tells you the net energy you took from or pushed to the grid for that month. If you pushed energy to the grid that month, you earn credits. If you took energy from the grid, you either pay for it using your previous credits or, if they aren’t sufficient, you pay the difference at the normal energy rate.
Can I Make Money From Net Metering?
Net metering does not allow you to make significant money from your solar panels if they are producing more energy than you consume. The reason for this is that the value of the credit you receive from the utility is much lower than the value at which the utility sells energy to others. This means it is in your economic best interest to size your solar system to be the smallest possible to meet your energy needs; if your system is bigger than you need, it will be more expensive and won’t save you any additional money.
Do I Need Expensive Hardware to Utilize Net Metering?
As a part of your solar installation process, your utility company will replace the standard electric meter on the side of your house with a bidirectional net meter designed for solar. For most utilities and most residential systems, your net meter will be free.
What Does the Future Hold for Net Metering?
As previously mentioned, net metering policies are not in the best interest of utility companies. The grid is not designed to accommodate distributed and variable sources of power like rooftop solar. As a result, utilities and their lobbying organizations are continuously pressuring lawmakers to change net metering policies.
While such actions are generally strongly opposed by consumer groups (not to mention solar installers), they do have an effect. One such effect is caps placed on net metering, either in terms of the total number of net metering accounts utilities accept or in the total energy that can be produced by net metering customers. To date, such changes do not affect existing net metering customers.
In the long run, as a greater proportion of our energy comes from variable and distributed sources, net metering policies are sure to change. Technologies that will drive this change are “virtual grid” technologies, which will change the landscape of the entire utility landscape. These technologies include home battery systems, smart meters, smart appliances, and electric vehicles.
At Goldin Solar, we are excited to be at the forefront of working with utility companies to ensure the changes to net metering result in increased value for all stakeholders involved. Together, we believe the private sector, electricity customers, and the planet can find mutual benefit.