So since late May 2017 I’ve had solar panels on my roof. But I had to wait more than 4 months, early Oct 2017, until I could sell the excess power I generate from those panels.
What happens between the installation of the panels and the selling of your excess power? Net metering.
Basically net metering is the term for getting your local electrical utility (in my case Meralco) to buy the excess power you generate. All utilities are required b law to offer net metering to their customers. From the term itself you can probably already guess that net metering involves properly measuring the power you generate and crediting you accordingly.
It sounds simple but there’s a lot of red tape involved in getting your net metering approved.
Before I detail my experience, please note that you do not need net metering in order for your solar panels to work. You only need metering to sell your excess energy. For example, you are generating 2.5kw but are only using .5kw. What happens to the excess energy of 2kw? If you do not have net metering then it is simply wasted, you do not get any money for it. With net metering your local utility will buy your excess power from you and pay you for it.
Without net metering solar panels can still be economical, especially if you generally consume more energy than you produce. Generally though you will need net metering to get the most value from your solar panels.
A run down of how I got net metering:
- Went to my local Meralco office, looked for the guy handling residential net metering
- Guy came over to the house, looked at the set up, reported back to Meralco
- Meralco required me to pay for an energy feasibility study of my area. This was kind of funny as Meralco wrote it like they were offering their services to me – as if I had a choice on who to get for the study.
- Meralco required me to enroll my Meralco bill under an auto debit arrangement (This is required for Meralco accounts which are less than a year old. I fell under this as I had just bought my house so the Meralco account was new.)
- Meralco required me to move my main breaker outside of my house and onto the street level. In case of a power interruption Meralco is afraid the electrical wires in my area will still have juice in them since my solar panels are still producing power. The breaker outside is to allow Meralco’s repair crew access to shut down the power in my house. This was the most expensive part of getting net metering and it is unnecessary to boot. See my discussion below.
- Because I had to monkey around with shifting my breaker outside the house I had to get a certificate from my city (Makati) saying that they inspected the new set up and everything was fine. (A lot of people get stuck on this process since getting your LGU to do inspections is excruciating.)
- I had to pay a nominal fee to the Energy Regulatory Commission which issued some certificate saying that I am registered to produce energy. (Again, more red tape and paper work.)
- Meralco changed my meter to a digital meter which can monitor how much energy I’m selling to them
So all of the above took a lot of time, more than 4 months. Again it’s frustrating that you’re trying to do something good (solar panels generate clean energy) but the regulations make it extremely time consuming in order for you to realize that good.
It’s doubly frustrating because parts of the process can be streamlined. Take steps 5 and 6. Meralco’s fears of my lines still being electrified during a brownout are unjustified since my inverter (the device which converts the power generated by the panels, which is direct current, into power which can be used for the home, which is alternating current), like all other modern inverters, automatically turns off when external power is cut. So in the event of a brownout, my inverter will turn off. Without the inverter there won’t be any power flowing from the panels to my home or the electrical wires outside my home. As such there is no need for the Meralco repair crew to have access to my breaker.
Having to move my breaker was also costly as I had to hire a contractor to do this. Fortunately the contractor took care of procuring the certificate from Makati City Hall (step 6). For that alone I was willing to pay them for their service. The contractor was recommended by Meralco but you can get anyone you feel comfortable with. In the end the contractor did good work and I certainly appreciated not having to deal with city hall. Still steps 5 and 6 were expensive. And this is on top of your cost for the panels.
Finally though, after more than 4 months, everything is completed and I am selling my excess power to Meralco.