Direct and alternating current, photovoltaics, insulation … When considering a switch to solar for your home, there are a lot of new terms you might come across. One of those terms, net metering, can be a bit more confusing to understand.
Luckily, we’ve created this guide to break down the aspects of Montana’s Net Metering, the elements that affect you and how you can reap the benefits. Continue reading below to find out how it all works!
What is Net Metering (NEM)?
In simple terms, Net Metering is a process where power companies compensate homeowners with solar systems for the excess energy those 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. Excess energy uses your home’s electrical system and the power grid in your community to safely store it back in the utility grid.
You don’t lose out on that energy, don’t worry!
As of this moment in Montana, NEM is still legally mandated. When your home solar energy system produces excess energy that heads back to the shared grid, you’ll receive payment in the form of credit from NorthWestern Energy to your account. This credit can’t be cashed out, but having it saved means that it can be used towards grid power when your solar panels aren’t producing at peak efficiency during foggy Montana mornings, or during a snowstorm. Whatever the circumstance, you’ll continue to draw on the power your solar panels produced.
This is how NEM helps homeowners who want to go solar wipe out their power bills.
But How Does NEM Work?
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 or your other utility provider 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 bidirectional 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 for any remaining difference. For homeowners in Montana with solar, most will only ever pay the required service charge to be connected to the grid – hovering around $10 each month.
No more renting your power – now you have the energy independence of solar energy right at home.
How Do the Power Companies Pay You for Your Energy?
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 the longer winter nights or snowstorms, or that thirty minutes of an intense spring rain, 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.
While some states like Oregon require that any credits still on a customer’s account after twelve months go into a fund for low income utility customers, Montana has no such requirement. 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.
Purelight Can Help You Save!
Montana’s NEM program is a great money-saving tool for homeowners with solar. However, these programs are not set to last long – many states are attempting to take away the NEM programs for good, eliminating the financial benefits of residential solar. Montana has come close before and could be next.
Homeowners who go solar before Montana’s NEM program is shut down are still able to get grandfathered into the current rates, and Purelight Power is here to help you save.
To find out if your roof qualifies for Purelight Power’s affordable, zero down program, take our 30-second survey and find out instantly before the NEM program is taken away.
Ready to own your power and go solar? Find out if your roof qualifies for Purelight Power’s affordable, zero down program by taking our 30-second survey before the NEM program is taken away.