In some U.S. states, electric utilities refuse to offer a net-metering agreement to owners of PV systems. Instead of a net-metering agreement — an arrangement that provides a homeowner with a one-for-one credit for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of PV-generated electricity fed into the grid — these utilities want to sell electricity to users for 12 cents or 15 cents per kWh, while buying it back for only 4 or 5 cents per kWh.
From the utilities’ perspective, there is a legitimate business case behind this apparent unfairness. Utility representatives point out that their companies deserve to be paid for the costs of maintaining the grid — so it’s only fair for the utility to buy electricity at a relatively low wholesale price while selling it at a relatively high retail price.
The issue is debatable, of course. GBA has published many articles analyzing whether (a) net metering contracts provide valuable benefits to utilities (for example, by reducing the utility’s dependence on expensive natural gas “peaker plants” to meet peak load demands on summer afternoons) or whether (b) net metering contracts are a threat to utilities’ very survival. (See, for example, Maine Completes Value of Solar Study; Residential Solar in Nevada Benefits All, Study Says; and New York Proposes New Rates for Distributed Energy.)
In this article, I don’t intend to address the debate over the fairness of net metering. Instead, I’ll look into ways that homeowners living in states without net metering can use their excess PV power on site instead of selling it to utilities at a very low price.
Installing a battery
When faced with the dilemma described above — the unwillingness of the local utility to provide full credit for power fed into the grid — many homeowners…