Net Metering is the billing arrangement with your utility that allows you to receive credit for excess renewable electricity delivered to the grid. A 'net meter' tracks both the electricity consumed onsite and the electricity generated by the solar energy system. When a residential net metered solar PV system produces electricity, the electricity first serves the home's onsite electricity demand and any excess electricity is provided to the utility grid. If the residential solar PV system generates more electricity than the home uses during a given billing cycle, net metering customers recieve bill credits which can be used to offset future usage. This simple billing arrangement has a significant impact on the economic viability of an investment in renewable energy.
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A feed-in-tariff also credits customers for energy produced onsite. However unlike net metering, which provides bill credits in exchange for electricity delivered to the grid, customers using a feed-in-tariff are paid for the power they produce. The rate at which they are paid may be higher or lower than the price at which they buy electricity. Many feed-in-tariffs also use a buy-all, sell-all arrangement whereby all the energy produced is delievered to the grid, and the customer is not able to use it onsite. Different utilities have different net metering policies and rules, so be sure to inquire first before installing your system.
Interconnection standards are the legal rules for connecting a renewable energy system to the power grid. This includes the technical and contractual terms that both system owners and utilities must follow. Most small renewable energy systems can be approved and interconnected quickly; larger systems generally take more time and may require system impact studies to ensure they will not cause any issues on the grid. In some cases, additional system upgrades may be required to interconnect the renewable energy system.
If you are working with a solar contractor, they will help you submit an interconnection and net metering application to your utility and schedule the inspections needed to connect your system to the electric grid.
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Best Practices for Net Metering and Interconnection
Utah's net metering and interconnection procedures receive an "A" grade from Freeing the Grid, an initiative that promotes best practices in net metering and interconnection on a national level.
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council has established national best practices for net metering, designed to provide solar customers with fair value for their solar generation and give them appropriate credit for any excess electricity they provide to the grid.
The IREC Model Interconnection Procedures establish national best practices for interconnection.