The solar industry has expanded exponentially in Canada, and so have related policies, solar power systems, and incentives to make it increasingly accessible to its potential users. One of the vital solar incentives for grid-tied solar power generators is called “net energy metering” (NEM) or “net metering”. Net metering, as of Sep 2020, is offered in some Canadian provinces including British Columbia, but is not available in Alberta or Saskatchewan.
What Is Net Metering?
Net metering refers to the way that excess power generation (kWh) is translated into dollar value for system owners. Net metering allows solar power generators to offset their monthly grid power consumption using excess power generation fed back into the grid. As a result, on a power bill, if the solar generator feeds more energy into the grid than what was consumed from the grid in that period, the bill charges are calculated based on zero power consumption for that month. This effectively applies the same dollar value (energy + delivery charges) for every kilowatt-hour kWh consumed and exported through the power grid meter. For solar power sites where net metering is not available, the solar energy exported to the grid is typically valued at a lower dollar value (energy + delivery charges) than the energy consumed from the grid.
Net metering programs by utilities also typically allow solar clients to carry-over surplus kWh credits from previous months, to be utilized on future bills. In other words, net metering allows commercial and residential clients that generate electricity from solar energy to send the surplus electricity back into the grid. Those clients can then use that energy from the grid at a later date, and still only get billed as though the energy was all consumed at the time it was generated during sunny hours.
What Are The General Requirements For Net-Metering?
To use the net metering billing mechanism, the solar power system must be grid-tied to transfer any excess solar energy generation into the utility grid. Off-grid solar power systems would not be eligible for a net metering incentive.
Additional eligibility requirements vary between provinces, territories and regions across Canada. Each has its own set of policies, compensation regulations, and capacity limits for solar energy credits.
What Are The Advantages Of Net-Metering?
Net metering programs typically result in higher dollar savings for solar power generators than non-net-metering grid-tied systems. This is because “net billing” or “buy-back” programs (e.g. in Alberta and Saskatchewan) result in a lower dollar value (energy + delivery charges) for the excess solar energy fed into the grid, than the energy consumed from the grid.
Typically solar power is generated and excess power is fed into the grid only at sunny times of the day (assuming no battery storage at the site). The net metering system provides you with increased peace of mind if you reside in an area with cloudy or harsh weather conditions. This is because solar energy produced during sunny days that gets fed back into the utility grid has a savings effect on bills regardless of whether the energy was consumed onsite at the time it was generated, or if it is used later from the grid.
Net metering allows the power grid to serve as a back-up power source, without a need to add the cost of onsite battery storage to reduce the amount of solar energy exported into the grid or used at night from the grid.
Grid-tied solar power systems and net metering programs are able to help grid power systems by smoothing the grid demand profiles. They can also help reduce the costs of energy-losses in power distribution systems over long-distance power transmission and distribution wires.
Dandelion Renewables provides its residential and commercial customers with highly efficient and environmentally-friendly solar energy solutions across Saskatchewan, BC, and Alberta. Check out our expert solar power services or contact us for customized care.