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Montana Net Metering – How Does It Work?

Montana Net Metering – How Does It Work?

by | Nov 10, 2021

Homeowners across Montana are looking for energy independence and choosing solar. By doing so, they’re able to go from rate hikes and dirty energy to clean electricity generated by rooftop solar. The key element is net metering, a program that allows solar system owners to earn credit for the excess power they generate.

Keep reading for our guide that breaks down the aspects of Montana Net Metering, including how it can help you save year-round when you switch to solar.

What is Net Metering (NEM)?

Net Metering is a process where power companies compensate homeowners for the excess energy their solar systems generate. With technological advancements in the last few years, solar panels are increasingly efficient, and home solar energy systems regularly produce more energy than the average household can use immediately.

Net Metering uses your home’s electrical system and the power grid in your community to safely store any extra energy your solar energy system produces back in the utility grid. Despite power companies lobbying to take this perk away from homeowners, in Montana NEM is legally mandated.

That means that companies like NorthWestern Energy have to compensate you when your home solar energy system produces excess energy that heads back to the grid in your community. Homeowners receive compensation in the form of credit from NorthWestern Energy to their accounts.

While this credit can’t be cashed out, having it saved means that it can be used when your solar panels aren’t producing at peak efficiency during foggy Montana mornings, a snowstorm, or overnight. You can dip back into that bank of credits and have solar power energize your home no matter the weather.

Not only do you get to keep your utility bills low while producing clean energy on your own roof, but you also can enjoy increased home value. Studies have shown that homes with solar panels sell faster and for more money than those without them.

Next to a photo of a house with solar, on a black background are the words "does your roof qualify for solar?" with a button below that reads "learn more."

How Does Net Metering in Montana Work Exactly?

Homeowners don’t necessarily have to know step-by-step how NEM works just to have solar at home. However, it’s important to understand the basics:

When you make the switch to solar, officials from NorthWestern Energy, Montana-Dakota Utilities, and other utility providers will come out and swap out your current unidirectional meter with a bidirectional meter.

This swap should not cost you anything from the power company. Your new net meter connects to your rooftop solar panels. The electricity your panels generate beyond what is actually used in your home is tracked through the bidirectional meter on its way back to the grid where it’s stored for future use. At the end of the monthly billing period, your utility provider will tally how much power you sent back to the grid, subtract the amount of electricity you used, and bill or credit you the difference.

Montana homeowners who partner with solar professionals — who can design efficient systems — to meet their energy needs will likely only ever pay the required service charge to be connected to the grid, which hovers around $10 each month.

How Does Net Metering Help Homeowners Save?

The high, wide, and handsome landscape of Montana brings plenty of sunny months and days where your solar panels will produce more power than can be immediately used.

When you wind up producing more power than can be consumed, the excess energy is metered back onto the grid, and payment for the energy is stored on your account as a credit. While the power company won’t be sending you a check for this credit, it will still help you save.

During long winter nights, snowstorms, or other production-halting events, the credit on your account goes towards any energy you do need to pull from the electrical grid. Even when your panels aren’t able to produce at their highest peak, they’ll still help wipe out your power bill using NEM. But what happens if you generate tons of extra energy with your solar system, and wind up with a larger credit on your account than you can use that month?

In Montana, NorthWestern keeps those credits on your account for 12 months, so you’ll have a good amount of time to draw on any credits accumulated. If you happen to have excess credits on your account at the 12-month mark, the power company will zero that amount out and keep the money for themselves. That sort of greed is all the more reason to stop renting your power from the energy companies and own your power with a solar system.

How to Apply for Northwestern Energy’s Net Metering Program

Applying for NorthWestern Energy’s Net Metering Program is easy and straightforward. First, you’ll need to contact the power company and let them know that you’re interested in switching to solar with their net metering program.

They can provide you with a list of qualified installers who have the experience necessary to properly install solar panels on your home and connect them to the grid. After that, they will come out and set up the bidirectional meter, which is required for net metering. Once you’re connected to the grid, you’ll be free to enjoy all of the savings that come with solar power, as well as clean energy production.

In addition, they also offer a net metering cap that limits the total amount of power your system can send back to the grid at any given time – an important safety measure for homeowners who are concerned with overproduction.

Purelight Can Help You Save!

Many states are attempting to take away the net metering programs for good, eliminating the financial benefits of residential solar. Montana has come close before and could be next. Take the initiative now and make the switch to solar to secure your savings with Northwestern Energy’s Net Metering Program. With the help of Purelight, you can start enjoying a future of savings as well as clean energy production. We make it easy for you to take control of your energy costs and become an independent consumer by offering affordable solar system installation, maintenance, and repair services. Take our 30-second survey and find out instantly before Montana gets rid of net metering.