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What’s Happening to Net Metering in Washington State: Updates for 2024

Net metering plays a vital role in promoting solar adoption in Washington State. This incentive system increases savings for solar customers and it also contributes to a more sustainable electric grid. 

Despite its long-term success, the future of net metering is uncertain. Keep reading to learn more about net metering in Washington State, what changes may be coming, and why the safest bet is to go solar sooner rather than later.

How Net Metering Works

Net metering is a billing arrangement between solar customers and their utility companies. Here’s how it works: 

  1. When your solar system produces more electricity than you need, it sends the excess power to the electric grid. 
  2. A bi-directional electric meter keeps track of the electricity you export to the grid. Your utility will swap your current electric meter out for a bi-directional meter when you install solar panels. 
  3. If your solar panels produce more electricity than you take from the electric grid in a given billing period, you will be credited by your utility company for the net excess kWhs. The credit will appear on your bill for the following period. You can use these credits to offset the cost of electricity you buy from the grid. 
  4. Your credits roll over from month to month, but your account is zeroed out once a year, on March 31st.

Current Net Metering Policy in Washington State

Net metering policies vary by state. Under the current net metering policy in Washington, all utilities must offer net metering for solar energy systems with a capacity of up to 100 kW. Nearly all residential and most commercial systems fall within this capacity limit. 

Solar customers who participate in net metering are credited at the same rate they are charged by the utility for electricity consumption. That means, for every kWh of excess solar energy that you export to the grid, you are credited with a kWh to use later. 

This one-to-one rate structure is what makes Washington’s net metering policy so valuable. It allows you to bank a significant number of kWhs in the summer when the days are longer and use them to offset your higher electricity bills in the winter when solar generation is lower.

Are Changes Coming?

California’s Impact 

California recently made drastic changes to its net metering policy which significantly reduced the rate at which solar customers are compensated for the power they send to the grid. California has been a national leader in solar energy for years, and its decisions influence policy changes in other states. Right now, there is some concern that utilities in other states, including Washington, could see the policy change in California as a win and lobby to pass similar legislation. 

The Cost Shift Concern 

In 2023, a proposed bill (HB 1427) that aimed to extend the net metering threshold and establish a working group to determine a successor rate to retail net metering failed to pass. This was primarily due to concerns about “cost shifting.” Utilities argue that non-solar customers bear the financial burden of maintaining the grid while solar customers benefit disproportionately. 

But is the cost shift concern real? The Washington Solar Energy Industries Association (WASEIA) in partnership with Puget Sound Energy (PSE), lawmakers, and other interested parties, recently advocated for and received funding to conduct a Value of Solar study that considers both the expenses and benefits of rooftop solar panels. The findings of this study will likely have a huge impact on the future of net metering in Washington State. We expect that the Value of Solar study will show no evidence of cost-shifting. The net metering bill will return in 2024, and we are hopeful that the results of the Value of Solar study will help it pass.

The Bottom Line: Now Is the Safest Time to Go Solar

While there has been a lot of talk about net metering in Washington State, one thing is certain—no changes have been made as of yet. Washington State maintains a highly favorable net metering policy and it’s not about to be snuffed out. 

That said, the uncertainty around net metering’s future is very real. If you’re considering installing solar panels, the safest bet is to do it soon.

Cascadia Solar is a highly experienced, local solar company serving residential and commercial customers on the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas in Washington State. As the solar division of Frederickson Electric, we’ve been serving the community for over 50 years. Our team is here to answer any questions you have about installing solar panels in Washington and help you make the best decision for your home or business.

Schedule your free, no-pressure solar consultation. Call 360-531-6163 or contact us to get started.