Green Cities

Removing the Net Metering Cap

According to many industry experts, solar energy has grown into a booming industry in the past few years.  A 2013 study done by Green Tech Media projected that by 2016, a solar panel system will be installed every 20 seconds in the United States.  Additionally, the solar energy industry is expected to grow seven times its current size in the next two years.  The average solar power system will save over 150 tons of Carbon Dioxide emissions in a thirty year period, which is the equivalent of planting ten football fields full of trees.  Solar energy is clearly expanding, but how can we make it even more popular? One of the biggest motivators for homeowners to get solar panels for their homes is actually economic.  Installation costs are essentially as cheap as they will be.  Solar panels are being mass produced and imported from other countries, and labor costs are not going to be any lower than what they currently are. How can we lower costs and ultimately make solar panels an affordable, environmentally friendly option for all households? The key is in net metering.  Net metering is a method where homes that use solar energy are connected to a community electrical grid, and any solar energy that is unused is fed back into the grid.  When extra energy is fed back into the grid, the home’s meter runs backwards to provide a credit for the home when electricity is being used at a time that the solar panels are not effective, like at night. There are several obstacles to net metering that might make it unattractive to homeowners.  Net metering is not available in all areas, and if it is available in your area, there is probably a cap on how much solar energy your home can feed back into the electrical grid.  This reduces the amount of money that homeowners could potentially save from using solar energy, and possibly even deter some homeowners as well.  Some areas in California, the leading state in solar energy, recently passed a bill to raise the net metering cap in order to further expand solar energy.  In order to motivate homeowners to power their homes with solar energy, there needs to be more of an economic benefit.  And that starts with our state governments passing bills to raise the net metering cap. Maurita Obermiller, Intern