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Solar Net Metering In Australia: A Comprehensive Guide

Feature image for the solar net metering article, showing a solar technician reading a solar meter

Australia is blessed with constant sunshine. And, with the prices of solar components now at their record lowest, there’s truly no better time to invest in a solar panel system. Do you know what makes this even better? Net metering.

In a nutshell, net metering allows you to keep more of your hard-earned money with you instead of the pockets of wealthy power retailers.

Awesome, right? So what exactly is it? Are there any other benefits? And, more importantly, is it too good to be true?

All these will be answered below. I recommend you start reading from the top but feel free to tap on any of the bullets to skip sections.

What exactly is solar net-metering?

Net metering is a billing system designed to reward homeowners like you and me for generating renewable energy. In this case, of course, the energy is from our solar panels.

How does net-metering work with solar power?

Solar Metering Integration
An illustration showing solar metering integration

Solar net metering works by allowing solar system owners to send their excess energy to the grid while also being able to buy electricity from the grid.

For one, this ensures that no energy from your solar system is wasted. Second of all, access to traditional grid electricity makes sure that your home isn’t left without power when your system isn’t generating enough.

Moreover, you will receive credits for any excess energy you export. These credits will then be subtracted from your power bill, leading to more savings for you.

Net metering also benefits the utility grid, as the energy you send helps stabilize the power supply. Now, the magic of the net metering system is only possible because of 2 counters: import & export.

Net meters have import and export counters

Summary defining the differences between import and export counters

The import counter

As its name suggests, the import counter measures the amount of energy that you draw from the grid, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh).

The import counter is the power retailer’s tool for calculating how much to charge you for electricity. Simply put, the more energy you import from the grid, the higher your electricity bills.

The export counter

Conversely, the export counter keeps tabs on the amount of solar energy that you, well, export to the grid.

Depending on what type of net metering agreement you subscribe to (more on this later), you can either export only your excess energy generated or all of it. Regardless of what the agreement is, though, your power retailer will use that energy to determine your credit rewards.

The net meter is what measures your import and export.

The net meter is what houses the import and export counters that make net metering possible. Because of this, it’s also called the bi-directional meter. And if it sends this data remotely, it’s also called a smart meter.

That being said, when solar panels are installed in a home equipped with an old or basic meter, the existing meter is replaced with a new net meter. But if your home is already equipped with a smart meter, it’s simply reconfigured to facilitate net metering.

Get 3 Solar Quotes From Quality Local Installers.

Is it possible to get a net-zero power bill with this?

Well, technically, yes. It’s certainly possible for this concept to eliminate your power bills. It is, however, impractical.

Why? Here’s the truth:

The cost of importing power is significantly higher than the credit you get for exporting solar electricity.

For reference, Perth has peak rates of only 10 cents per kWh of solar energy you export. But, as of right now, the price of buying energy costs about 39 cents. That makes the cost of importing electricity nearly 4x more than the credits you receive for exporting—and that’s using peak rates! Off-peak rates are worse.

This means that if you want to get a net-zero power bill with net metering, you’d have to invest in a solar energy system that’s significantly larger than what you need.

That’s a lot of money to spend when, alternatively, you could buy a solar battery to maximize your solar power usage.

Recommended: Will I still have an energy bill if I have solar panels?

2 types of solar net metering agreements in Australia

1. Gross metering

Gross metering exports all of your solar electricity to the grid. Yes, all.

That being said, gross net metering is less common in Australia. As of writing, only NSW and Canberra use it.

Gross metering is often viewed as more transparent than solar metering because it provides an exact record of the amount of solar energy your solar power system has generated. It also shows you exactly how much electricity your home uses.

2. Solar net metering

Solar metering is a lot more common in sunny AU. It’s an agreement where only your unused or excess energy is sent to the power grid. Thus, ensuring that you consume more of your self-made energy and reducing your dependence on your electricity retailer.

I prefer this agreement because I want to be independent of grid power as much as possible. Ultimately, though, the choice will be yours to make.

Plus, there are other types of net metering you need to be aware of, too. This brings us to the next point of our discussion.

3 other types of net metering

1. Virtual net metering

This concept allows households to subscribe to a shared solar panel site. In turn, this allows Aussies to enjoy net metering without actually having to install solar panels on their homes, thus why it’s called virtual.

The solar power that these solar sites generate goes back to the power grid. Subscribers receive credits on their electricity bills proportional to their share of the produced solar energy.

2. Aggregate net metering

Aggregate net metering is similar to virtual net metering in that both types have people subscribing to a shared solar power system. The main difference is that, here, it’s mostly targeted toward apartment buildings or other multi-unit dwellings.

Another difference is that instead of going straight to the power grid, the solar energy from the shared solar panels is distributed to the tenants of the property. Only the excess energy produced is sent to the electrical grid.

In other words, this prioritizes meeting the energy needs of the tenants first.

3. Remote net metering

The two previous types of net metering we discussed focused on households and communities. This, however, has its eyes set on commercial customers.

This allows solar panel systems situated at a distance to generate electricity that feeds into the power grid rather than being used on-site.

Of course, this approach reduces the electricity bills of those who subscribe to it – just like the previously discussed types. It’s gotten increasingly popular among businesses that are looking to cut costs and embrace greener practices.

Get 3 Solar Quotes From Quality Local Installers.

2 powerful benefits of net metering

2 Powerful Benefits Of Net Metering
A visual representation highlighting the two major benefits of net metering.

1. Diminished energy bills.

This has got to be its primary benefit. After all, we all want to save our money, right?

That being said, net metering allows you to earn credits for any excess solar energy you contribute to the grid, thus reducing your energy bills.

2. Reducing your carbon footprint.

Whatever type you subscribe to, all of them mean that you’re getting at least some of your home’s energy requirements from solar panels. Conversely, that means you rely less on the electricity grid.

That alone reduces your carbon footprint because, unlike a common electricity retailer that uses fossil fuels to produce power, solar energy is as renewable as they come.

Recommended: 8 environmental benefits of using solar energy

Conclusion

In a nutshell, solar net metering is both ingenious and devious.

Ingenious because owners of solar panels get rewarded for sending solar power to the grid. This results in a lower energy bill and a more stable power grid. Devious because the value we get for exporting solar power isn’t nearly as high as the cost of importing power from electricity retailers.

Nevertheless, savings are savings. So, even if it’s impractical to aim for a zero on your electricity bill, net metering does indeed help you keep more of your money.

That’s it for this discussion. But, before you leave, know that we have a network of pre-vetted installers on the ready. So, if you need help installing solar panels on your home, let us know and we’ll get you 3 FREE quotes right away.