What Is Virtual Net Metering? (Net Metering vs. Virtual Net Metering)

By: Pivot Energy

May 2 2024

Virtual net metering is a great way to support clean energy generation while avoiding system installation, maintenance, and upfront costs. This policy opens the door to many companies and other entities that would otherwise be unable to transition to solar energy. In this blog, we’ll explain everything you need to know about virtual net metering, how it works, and its benefits. However, a complete understanding of virtual net metering begins with reviewing the net metering basics.

What Is Net Metering?

Net metering is a solar policy that creates a billing mechanism for solar project owners to receive credit on their utility bill in exchange for the excess electricity that their solar system produces. When a solar array produces more energy than a customer uses, the excess energy feeds back into the local utility grid. The facility’s electricity meter tracks how much energy is consumed onsite versus how much is sent to the grid. At the end of each billing period, if the system produces more solar energy than the total energy the customer consumes, that customer will receive a credit on their bill to offset future consumption.

Net metering is an amazing policy for companies striving to reduce operational costs, providing the full retail value for the excess solar energy in select states. It is important to note that only some states have state-wide net metering legislation, and in some, it's up to individual utilities to decide whether they offer these programs. Furthermore, net metering policies can vary widely, making it important to research the program specifics in your area. Even if you live in a state where net metering isn't available, there still may be other financial incentives for commercial solar.

What Is Virtual Net Metering?

The main difference between net metering and virtual net metering is the location of the solar array. While net metering is a policy for renewable energy projects installed on a customer’s building or land, virtual net metering provides those same benefits of solar to those who do not have the ability or desire to host a solar project on their property. 

Under virtual net metering, a solar project is installed offsite and is not connected directly to the customer’s building. Rather, the clean energy is fed directly into the local utility grid, and the “off-taker” – the customer purchasing the solar energy produced – sees that corresponding clean energy applied to and credited on their monthly utility bill. Although they are not directly consuming the solar power produced, the customer still receives many of the same benefits of onsite solar energy. Similar to traditional net metering, virtual net metering is not available everywhere, but states and utilities are expanding these programs to offer options to entities without viable roof-space.

Virtual Net Metering and Renewable Energy Certificates

Many net metering programs allow the customer to claim the renewable energy certificates (RECs) generated by the system. The possession of the RECs enables the off-taker to credibly claim the environmental impact of the clean energy produced by the renewable energy system. RECs play an important role in advancing the adoption of renewable energy across the country. With virtual net metering, entities can reduce operational costs, support renewable energy, and accrue RECs to reduce their carbon footprint.

How to Get Started With Net Metering

If you're interested in virtual net metering, you'll need to work with an experienced solar developer like Pivot Energy. We're a turnkey solar provider, a national leader in clean energy solutions, and a certified B Corp. We’re happy to help you understand what programs may be available where you live as you pivot toward renewable energy. 

At Pivot, we're fiercely dedicated to accelerating the rapid transition to a cleaner, decentralized energy industry. We’ll work closely with you to ensure your renewable energy purchase meets your environmental and economic goals. If you are interested in net metering, virtual net metering, or an onsite solar project, contact us today.


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