Net Metering: Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT IS NET METERING?

Q. How does net metering work?

A. Net Metering is a rate that allows members to operate renewable generators, such as solar panels, wind turbines, hydroelectric, biomass, or geothermal power systems in order to produce some or all of their energy needs. When a member's renewable generator produces more electricity than is being used, the excess energy flows onto the utility lines and the meter registers a usage credit. When a member's usage exceeds their generation output, the meter will run forward as normal. The net difference in energy consumed and excess energy is the basis for volumetric charges applied to the member's monthly bill.

If the renewable generator produces more energy than is used at the residence or commercial site, a credit rolls over to the next month. For example, if a member consumes 700 kWh in one month and the solar panels produce 1000 kWh, then a 300 kWh credit is rolled into the next bill.

Once your net metering notification form has been utility approved, your installation completed and approved by the county, your net metering certification form has been received by REC, and your interconnection has been inspected by REC, your account will be set up as a net metering account and your usage will be monitored accordingly.

REC's meters are designed to measure both the quantity and direction the electricity is flowing.

Q. What is aggregated agricultural net metering?

A. Aggregated Agricultural Net Metering is available for agricultural entities with a renewable generator or generators and works similarly to traditional net metering. Multiple meters on separate, but contiguous properties owned and/or controlled by the same company or person are chosen by the member and treated as one meter and billed on one rate schedule. Instead of excess generation being credited as a kWh credit the following month as in traditional net metering, excess generation is deducted from electric usage from other meters at the property in the same month. Aggregated agricultural net metering renewable generators are limited to 500 kW.

Examples:

House uses 500 kWh + barn uses 300 kWh + second barn uses 200 kWh -- Renewable generator produces 1000 kWh = REC will apply the 1,000 kWh excess generation to all three meters on the house, barn, and second barn and bill the member for 0 kWh plus the access fee.

Please note that aggregated net metering is permitted only for agricultural purposes. Eligible members are those who are engaged primarily in the production and sale of plants and animals, products collected from plants and animals, or plant and animal services that are useful to the public

To sign up for aggregated agricultural net metering, please provide the following:
- a signed and notarized affidavit stating that the member is eligible under Virginia code for aggregated agricultural net metering
- a site map with all meters to be aggregated
- a list of meters, meter facility functions (i.e. house, barn, etc) and addresses
- a list of all account numbers to be aggregated

Related: Aggregated Net Metering Form
Related:
Affidavit for Aggregated Net Metering
Related: Examples of how to submit a site map for an Aggregated Agricultural Net Metering Request.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

Q. Is solar feasible for my location?

A. Ultimately, members have to decide for themselves whether installing generation is right for them. REC strongly suggests looking at energy conservation as well as generation to find the best balance for you.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is funded by the Department of Energy.

NREL's PV Watts calculator will estimate the energy production and cost of energy of grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) energy systems throughout the state. It allows homeowners, business owners, installers and manufacturers to easily develop estimates of the performance of potential PV installations. Simply enter your address, hit go and get started. It's that easy.

Q. What should I do before considering net metering?

A. The primary goal of net metering is to allow consumers to generate enough electricity to offset some or all of their annual energy use. It is more economical, efficient and environmentally friendly to reduce your energy use before expending the time and expense of installing a renewable generating system. REC has energy management advisers and online tools to help you identify cost-effective energy-efficiency improvements and conservation efforts, which will help to lower your energy usage and costs.

By first reducing your energy use, you may be able to reduce the size and cost of your renewable generator. Related: View our Billing Insights tool.

Once energy-efficiency and conservation measures have been implemented, you would be ready to size a renewable generator system to offset the remaining energy usage.

WHAT'S THE PROCESS FOR SIGNING UP?

Q. How do I apply to become a net metering member?

A. Here's how to get started:

Review Virginia's State Laws and Regulations for Net Metering.
Review REC's Net Metering Rider
Make sure your generator is a renewable type. (Solar, Wind, Hydro, etc.)

Fill out Net Metering Interconnection Notification form
Scan your form and email it to RECNetMeter@myrec.coop or mail to:
Rappahannock Electric Cooperative
REC Net Metering
P. O. Box 7388
Fredericksburg, VA 22404-7388

When received, REC will review the submittal, call if there are any questions or corrections and respond that the request has been approved. Once approved, construction may begin.

The member or installer should obtain all required building permits, complete construction and pass a required county electrical inspection before submitting the certification form to REC.

Fill out Net Metering Certification form
Scan your form and email it to RECNetMeter@myrec.coop or mail:
Rappahannock Electric Cooperative
REC Net Metering
P. O. Box 7388
Fredericksburg, VA 22404-7388

REC will schedule an interconnection inspection of the installed system and interconnection equipment within 30 days of receiving the certification form (60 days for nonresidential members). This interconnection inspection ensures all required safety equipment and operations are in compliance with REC’s requirements.

Q. What are the costs and rules?

A. In most cases, REC does not have to install equipment. However, in a few cases, system distribution improvements may be necessary for interconnection to the utility. In those cases, REC will bill the member for these improvements because the output of the system being installed exceeds the capacity of REC's installed equipment. These charges will be based on the amount of engineering time, material and construction of work necessary to complete the interconnection.

REC charges an interconnection inspection fee of $50, which is payable at the time of inspection.

What size of a renewable generator am I allowed for Net Metering?

The state of Virginia allows installations of up to the following sizes:

Residential applications up to 20 kW Nameplate AC
Non Residential applications up to 1000 kW Nameplate AC
Agricultural Aggregate Net Metering applications up to 500kW Nameplate AC.

In each instance, the installation may not be sized to generate more than the total annual energy consumed at that location.

Can I install a renewable generator without notifying REC?

No. By law you must notify your Cooperative as to your intentions of interconnecting to REC's system.

If you are found to be operating a generator that has not been approved by the Cooperative, then your electrical service and generator may be disconnected due to the serious safety concerns to Cooperative workers and the public.

Q. Do I need a power purchase agreement?

A. A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is an optional agreement between the Cooperative and the net metering member. It states that after 12 months, if the member's renewable generator produces excess generation, the utility will purchase the excess energy at a price equal to the Cooperative's avoided wholesale energy cost. To sell such excess energy, a PPA must be entered into prior to the beginning of the 12-month net metering period.

In most cases, a PPA is not necessary because Virginia state law limits generation annual output to the annual historic usage on the meter to which the generation connects.

Sizing your renewable generator properly to meet the load that you intend to offset allows you to maximize the total output of your installed renewable generator system. Any excess energy your system produces should be minimal and can be carried over as kWh credit into future billing periods.

Typically, after the first year of use, you can determine if you need to consider a Power Purchase Agreement. Power Purchase Agreements are paid annually and are based only on the utility's avoided cost. This avoided price for wholesale energy is generally about 30 to 40 percent of the total electric rate.

HOW DOES BILLING WORK?

Q. How much do I get for the energy my system produces?

A. The energy you produce and use to offset your onsite electricity consumption is valued at the full retail rate for electricity. Any excess electricity at the end of the 12-month net metering period may be sold to the utility - if a Purchase of Power Agreement is entered into at the beginning of the 12-month period - at price equal to the utility's avoided cost of wholesale power, which is typlically 30 to 40 percent of the total retail rate.

How do I see the energy output of my system on my bill?

Your electric bill will not show any output of energy your system produced. Your bill will only show the difference between the energy generated at your site and the energy consumed from REC's distribution system; hence, the term Net Metering. Most renewable generator systems sold today have equipment with access to renewable generator readings that will estimate the output of the system. You will need to consult the manufacturer/installer of your system to determine if this is available.

Q. What will my REC bill look like as a participating net metering member?

A. Your bill will be similar to your normal electric bill. Any amount that is billed will reflect only the net of your usage minus any energy that your renewable generator produced. Regardless of how much energy is generated, you will always be subject to paying the fixed monthly charge. If your bill contains a volume-based charge, then your system did not produce more energy than was needed during that billing period. If you generate more electricity than is needed for your home or business in a given month, the excess amount is carried to the next billing period as kWh credit, which reduces the number of kWh billed in the following month.

WHAT ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE?

Q. What safety issues should I consider?

A. Safety is REC's utmost concern. The Net Metering participant's generation must disconnect from the utility power system whenever an outage occurs. This prevents the member's generator from energizing REC's facilities and creating a hazard. The installer and your local building inspector should work together to make sure the system is installed correctly to protect you and your home, and the REC inspector will check to make sure the connection is safe for REC.

Q. How long will it take my generation to pay for itself

A. This question is best answered by your installer or solar panel vendor, but you can get a general idea of payback period by using the tools at PVWATTs to determine the value of your generation per year compared to the total install cost.

Q. Are there other benefits to installing renewable generation?

A. Yes. Renewable generators are eligible to enter into the Renewable Energy Credit market. For more information, please ask your installer or vendor, or visit the sites listed below.

Renewable Green Energy Certificates
Green Power Markets
Net Metering Virginia Code
Net Energy Metering Rider
U.S. Department of Energy
North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners
PW Watts Calculator
Let's Go Solar: General Information on Solar Systems and Financing

WHAT TO CONSIDER

When considering installing a Net Metering system, members should carefully review and understand the Net Metering Virginia Code.

Net Metering Contact at REC

E-mail the REC Net Metering Team for questions regarding Net Metering.


Net Metering

Related documents:

PLEASE NOTE: The Notification form should be submitted before construction begins. The Certification form should be submitted after county inspection approval.

Net Metering Virginia Code

Net Metering Notification
Net Metering Certification
Net Energy Metering Rider
Aggregated Net Metering Affidavit
Aggregated Net Metering Form

Additional resources:

U.S. Department of Energy