Solar Power 201: Net Metering explained

February 23, 2021

Net Metering: the independence of generating your own electricity, backed by the security of your local power grid

If you plan to install solar power, there are two ways you can go:

The first is to go off-grid, which means you’ll be totally independent with no connection to any outside power line – so no power bill to pay, ever.  But it also means that if you like power 24 hours a day, you’ll need a battery bank that can store enough power during the day for use during the night – and that battery bank will need to have enough extra capacity to carry you through long winter nights and prolonged cloudy weather (which sometimes happens at the same time).  In short, off-grid is appealing, but anyone considering it should be prepared to spend a bit more money, and to become actively engaged in day-to-day power usage and management. The second option – more feasible for most people – is to remain connected (or grid-tied) to your local utility’s power line and use net metering.  Net metering is an arrangement whereby you use grid power whenever your panels aren’t generating (IE at night), but then send any surplus power you generate with your panels (IE during the day) back into the power grid.  Then you’re billed on the net amount of power you use: your consumption from the grid minus what you’ve sent into the grid.  Rules vary between jurisdictions.  Some allow you to offset your power consumption to zero on an annualized basis; others will actually pay you for any surplus you produce on an annualized basis.

Grid-tied net-metered systems are simpler and less costly than off-grid systems because batteries aren’t needed. Through net metering, you are essentially using your local power utility as your ‘battery’, because you can send it power in summer and then use back that same amount of power in winter.

Here are links to how net metering works in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland and Labrador power and hydro, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC.  For subscribers in other areas, please just check with your local utility.

2 Responses to “Solar Power 201: Net Metering explained”

  1. […] Regular subscribers will remember that we had a solar array installed at our home last December.  (If that’s news to you, read more about the planning and installation here, and about how net metering works here.) […]

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