Anyone familiar with residential solar power understands how important net metering is.
Net metering is the policy that allows for solar customers to be compensated for the excess electricity that their systems generate during peak daytime hours. This allows homeowners to get the full value of their solar panel systems.
Unfortunately, some utilities are starting to pay considerably less money for this excess solar power that is fed into the grid. On top of that, they are looking to charge homeowners extra fees just because they have solar. This is what is currently happening in the state of Nevada which has led to the temporary halting of residential solar business.
Two points can be easily argued here; blocking net metering and charging extra fees is both a step backwards concering our collective need to reduce our CO2 emissions and is also a blatant monopolistic power move. Our local and world leaders are fully aware of the fact that we need to transition to clean energy sources as quickly as possible. Every sector will play its part and the residential one is no exception.
The second point is also clear – this is a power move by an industry that has had no competition for decades. This has nothing to do with “cost shifting” or solar customers not paying their fair share of grid costs. That’s misinformation used to distract people from the real story. This is simply an industry attempting to protect its monopolistic environment.
The good news is that viable energy storage solutions are starting to become available for homeowners who go solar. The word “viable” is key here. Battery storage is nothing new to the solar industry. Historically it’s been bulky, expensive, and typically only used in rural settings.
We’re now beginning to see many companies develop new residential energy storage systems that are much more home friendly (smaller-sized) and cost effective.
So what’s the connection between energy storage and net metering?
Instead of sending excess solar electricity to the grid, it gets stored onsite in a battery unit. A great feature of these systems is that they utilize smart technologies that allow them to store energy when it’s cheap so that it can be used later in the day when most utilities charge extra for energy. So instead of paying utilities for expensive peak energy, homeowners can draw upon less expensive energy stored in their battery systems.
Essentially, solar homeowners will no longer be at the mercy of what utilities want to pay them via net metering. They can now keep all of their solar power that is produced.
We are still very early days regarding home energy storage. While these systems are available right now, prices will come down in the coming years making it even more economically viable. However, it can already be cost effective for those who live in high-priced electricity states.
In the short-to-medium term, homeowners with solar plus energy storage will still be tied to the grid. There will most likely be even more resistance from utilities as they lose even more customers.
What is likely to happen? Homeowners and freedom of choice will win in the end. Utilities are obligated to reduce their CO2 emissions under the Clean Power Plan. Most of this reduction will happen with large utility-scale solar and wind projects. However, utilities must recognize that residential systems must also play a role.
The conclusion to come to here is that residential solar is looking as good as ever. Utility attempts to squash solar will only backfire as an increasing number of homeowners become more and more self-reliant.
Here’s to solar power and freedom of choice!