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Water protectors and state security personnel face-off across a fence near the pipeline construction site. Rob Wilson / Facebook

In the past days we have seen new desperate attempts by corporate bullies to criminalize protests and spark unfounded fear of community protectors. Greenpeace is committed to standing up not only for our planet but for everyone's right to speak out and peacefully protest. If we don't all stand together against this intimidation, we might be facing a truly dystopian future.

On Tuesday, members of Congress called for individuals and environmental activists protesting pipelines to be prosecuted as terrorists. Today, the fossil fuel echo chamber is repeating both the call for prosecution and the false allegations. Energy Transfer Partners and its cronies in the Trump administration are trying to rewrite the history of Standing Rock in real time. This is shameful.

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The 2,000 water protectors who have gathered to oppose the pipeline's construction were met today by the Morton County Sheriff Department, who removed people and their camping gear.

Heavily armed authorities pushed through a supply area for the Water Protectors blockade Thursday. The public witnessed a new level of escalation that day in the Native struggle at Standing Rock, as police swept through an encampment in the direct path of the Dakota Access pipeline. The resulting standoff with the National Guard, and police officers from various states, led to 141 arrests. Advancing authorities attacked Water Protectors with flash grenades, bean bag launchers, pepper spray and Long Range Acoustic Devices. It is crucial that people recognize that Standing Rock is part of an ongoing struggle against colonial violence. The Dakota Access pipeline is a front of struggle in a long-erased war against Native peoples—a war that has been active since first contact, and waged without interruption.

Greenpeace stands in solidarity with and lends full support to the water protectors at Standing Rock, and we recognize the rights and sovereignty of the Standing Rock Sioux, accorded by the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868. We call on President Obama to use his executive power to revoke the permits for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline immediately. And we reject the actions of North Dakota law enforcement in favoring the interests of Energy Transfer Partners and the fossil fuel industry over the rights of this land's inhabitants. We join in proclaiming the sacred power of water and the responsibility we have to protect it at all costs. And we urge our government to respect the sovereignty of the Standing Rock Sioux, whose constitutional right to peacefully protest has been unjustly met by a militarized police force.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a direct threat to the life, rights and water of the Standing Rock Sioux. It is unconscionable that a militarized force was deployed to serve a massive pipeline to move dirty, fracked oil that would threaten our climate and the life-sustaining water of the Missouri River. And, despite law enforcement's effort to jam video feeds coming out of the camps today, seeing those forces moving against Indigenous people will only galvanize the public rejection of the Dakota Access Pipeline and all it stands for.

PavloBaliukh / iStock / Getty Images

Through net metering programs, homeowners who have installed solar energy systems can get utility credits for any electricity their panels generate during the day that isn't used to power home systems. These credits can be "cashed in" to offset the cost of any grid electricity used at night.

Where net metering is available, solar panels have a shorter payback period and yield a higher return on investment. Without this benefit, you only save on power bills when using solar energy directly, and surplus generation is lost unless you store it in a solar battery. However, net metering gives you the option of selling any excess electricity that is not consumed within your home.

Generally, you will see more home solar systems in places with favorable net metering laws. With this benefit, going solar becomes an attractive investment even for properties with minimal daytime consumption. Homeowners can turn their roofs into miniature power plants during the day, and that generation is subtracted from their nighttime consumption.

What Is Net Metering?

Net metering is a billing arrangement in which surplus energy production from solar panels is tracked by your electricity provider and subtracted from your monthly utility bill. When your solar power system produces more kilowatt-hours of electricity than your home is consuming, the excess generation is fed back into the grid.

For homeowners with solar panels, the benefits of net metering include higher monthly savings and a shorter payback period. Utility companies also benefit, since the excess solar electricity can be supplied to other buildings on the same electric grid.

If a power grid relies on fossil fuels, net metering also increases the environmental benefits of solar power. Even if a building does not have an adequate area for rooftop solar panels, it can reduce its emissions by using the surplus clean energy from other properties.

How Net Metering Works

There are two general ways net metering programs work:

  1. The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your utility company, and a credit is posted to your account that can be applied to future power bills.
  2. The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your home's electricity meter. Modern power meters can measure electricity flow in both directions, so they tick up when you pull from the grid at night and count down when your solar panels are producing an excess amount of electricity.

In either scenario, at the end of the billing period, you will only pay for your net consumption — the difference between total consumption and generation. This is where the term "net metering" comes from.

How Does Net Metering Affect Your Utility Bill?

Net metering makes solar power systems more valuable for homeowners, as you can "sell" any extra energy production to your utility company. However, it's important to understand how charges and credits are managed:

  • You can earn credits for your surplus electricity, but utility companies will not cut you a check for the power you provide. Instead, they will subtract the credits from your power bills.
  • If your net metering credit during the billing period is higher than your consumption, the difference is rolled over to the next month.
  • Some power companies will roll over your credit indefinitely, but many have a yearly expiration date that resets your credit balance.

With all of this in mind, it is possible to reduce your annual electricity cost to zero. You can accumulate credit with surplus generation during the sunny summer months, and use it during winter when solar generation decreases.

You will achieve the best results when your solar power system has just the right capacity to cover your annual home consumption. Oversizing your solar array is not recommended, as you will simply accumulate a large unused credit each year. In other words, you cannot overproduce and charge your power company each month.

Some power companies will let you pick the expiration date of your annual net metering credits. If you have this option, it's wise to set the date after winter has ended. This way, you can use all the renewable energy credits you accumulated during the summer.

Is Net Metering Available Near You?

Net metering offers a valuable incentive for homeowners to switch to solar power, but these types of programs are not available everywhere. Net metering laws can change depending on where you live.

In the U.S., there are mandatory net metering laws in 38 states and Washington, D.C. Most states without a mandate have power companies that voluntarily offer the benefit in their service areas. South Dakota and Tennessee are the only two states with no version of net metering or similar programs.

If net metering is available in your area, you will be credited for your surplus energy in one of two ways:

  • Net metering at retail price: You get full credit for each kilowatt-hour sent to the grid. For example, if you're charged 16 cents per kWh consumed, you'll get a credit of 16 cents per kWh exported. This type of net metering is required by law in 29 states.
  • Net metering at a reduced feed-in tariff: Surplus electricity sent to the grid is credited at a lower rate. For example, you may be charged 16 cents per kWh for consumption but paid 10 cents per kWh exported. Feed-in tariffs and other alternative programs are used in 17 of the states where retail-rate net metering is not mandatory.

Note: This is just a simplified example — the exact kWh retail price and solar feed-in tariff will depend on your electricity plan.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about net metering and other solar power incentives in your state. You can also look for information about solar incentives by visiting the official websites of your state government and utility company.

Other Financial Incentives for Going Solar

Net metering policies are one of the most effective incentives for solar power. However, there are other financial incentives that can be combined with net metering to improve your ROI:

  • The federal solar tax credit lets you claim 26% of your solar installation costs as a tax deduction. For example, if your solar installation had a cost of $10,000, you can claim $2,600 on your next tax declaration. This benefit is available everywhere in the U.S.
  • State tax credits may also be available depending on where you live, and they can be claimed in addition to the federal incentive.
  • Solar rebates are offered by some state governments and utility companies. These are upfront cash incentives subtracted directly from the cost of your solar PV system.

In addition to seeking out solar incentives available to you, you should compare quotes from multiple installers before signing a solar contract. This will ensure you're getting the best deal available and help you avoid overpriced offers and underpriced, low-quality installations. You can start getting quotes from top solar companies near you by filling out the 30-second form below.

Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Net Metering

Why is net metering bad?

When managed correctly, net metering is beneficial for electricity consumers and power companies. There have been cases in which power grids lack the capacity to handle large amounts of power coming from homes and businesses. However, this is an infrastructure issue, not a negative aspect of net metering itself.

In places with a high percentage of homes and businesses using solar panels, surplus generation on sunny days can saturate the grid. This can be managed by modernizing the grid to handle distributed solar power more effectively with load management and energy storage systems.

How does net metering work?

With net metering, any electricity your solar panels produce that isn't used to power your home is fed into your local power grid. Your utility company will pay you for this power production through credits that can be applied to your monthly energy bills.

Can you make money net metering?

You can reduce your power bills with net metering, using surplus solar generation to compensate for your consumption when you can't generate solar power at night and on cloudy days. However, most power companies will not pay you for surplus production once your power bill has dropped to $0. Normally, that credit will be rolled over, to be used in months where your solar panels are less productive.

On very rare occasions, you may be paid for the accumulated balance over a year. However, this benefit is offered by very few electric companies and is subject to limitations.

Wednesday started the last 100 days of Obama's presidency. So rather than speculate on who our next leader will be, let's focus on what our current one still has the power to do on behalf of our climate.

With an election season as inconceivable as this one's turning out to be, it's easy to forget that Barack Obama is actually still our president—and he still holds the power to take the bold action on climate change we need.

There's no question President Obama has moved the needle when it comes to taking action on climate change.Flickr / Creative Commons

There's no question President Obama has moved the needle when it comes to taking action on climate change. More so than any other U.S. president to date, he has pushed for political solutions to carbon pollution at home with the Clean Power Plan (though that now has to fight its way through legal challenges).

On the global stage he has pushed for consensus among world leaders that we all need to deal with our addiction to fossil fuels, helping to broker the Paris climate accord and a landmark deal with China.

This would be a strong legacy, if it weren't for the stark reality that even developing the oil, gas and coal in fields and mines that already exist would take us beyond 2 C of warming into climate chaos territory, let alone if we frack, drill or otherwise dig up fossil fuels from new sites, of which there are plenty of companies hoping to do just that. (If you want to know more about the math behind our planet's climate boundaries for energy production and use, check out Oil Change International's brilliant but scary new analysis).

Faced with this reality, we need President Obama to do everything in his power to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Specifically, in the next 100 days, the president needs to use his executive power in the U.S. to put a stop to new oil and gas drilling and fracking projects on our public lands and waters, just as his administration did earlier this year when it imposed a moratorium on new coal mining. Since President Obama took office, more than 10 million acres of public lands across the U.S. and more than 15 million acres of public offshore waters in the gulf have been turned over to energy corporations for fossil fuel extraction.

And there's plenty more where that came from.

Taking public lands off the table when it comes to fossil fuel developers would not only be an important step towards safeguarding our climate, but would also protect the many communities whose land, air and water are being poisoned. From the Gulf Coast, to Colorado, to North Dakota, to Alaska, the way that fossil fuels are extracted, processed and transported pose grave threats to public health, people's livelihoods and ancestral lands and waters. Protecting these spaces would send a clear message that America wants a just transition away from fossil fuels, not an abusive relationship where we're beholden to them, however much they hurt us.

When tThe New York Times interviewed President Obama recently, the reporter observed that "He believes that his efforts to slow the warming of the planet will be the most consequential legacy of his presidency." Studies have shown that by ending fossil fuel extraction on federal lands and waters, Obama can significantly reduce global emissions and make progress towards his Paris commitments.

So with 100 days still as the leader of the free world and the ability to stop fossil fuel extraction on our public lands and waters, the president doesn't have to just believe in his climate legacy, he can take action that makes it real.

Join us in telling President Obama: Protect our communities and our climate. End new fossil fuel leasing today.

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© Greenpeace / Alex Hofford

Thursday was Use Less Stuff Day. It was created to inspire us to rethink the stuff we use. All our stuff—cell phones, clothes, cars, disposable chopsticks, and on and on—comes from somewhere and has to go somewhere when we throw it out. That takes a big toll on the planet, so thinking about how to use less is an excellent idea.

I've written a bunch about the real need to re-think our approach to the holidays and the mad shopping frenzy that comes with them.

When it comes to how we do spend our dollars, the product that jumps immediately to mind as obscenely wasteful, expensive and easily preventable is bottled water.

Let's dig a bit deeper into this. It's true that in some parts of the world the water quality is so poor that it's unsafe for people to drink. There are definitely some places in the U.S. where fracking or petrochemical plants have ruined the local water supply, but even then there are better solutions than forcing the community to buy bottled water! For the most part, tap water in the U.S. is clean, readily available and thousands of times cheaper than the bottled stuff.

A four-year review of the bottled water industry in the U.S. and the safety standards that govern it, including independent testing of over 1,000 bottles of water found that there is no assurance that just because water comes out of a bottle it is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap. In fact tap water is tested more frequently than bottled water.

Where does bottled water come from?

If you take the million-dollar marketing at face value, you'd be forgiven for believing that $2 buys you glacier water from a pristine stream somewhere virtually untouched. In fact, a lot of the bottled water sold in the U.S. is just treated water from our municipal water systems; the same place our tap water comes from.

If that doesn't strike you as ridiculous, here's a really shocking example of where bottled water comes from.

While California's in the middle of a historic drought, Nestle—the largest bottler of water in the world—is drawing millions of gallons of water a year from public lands in the San Bernardino National Forest of Southern California. Using a permit that actually expired in 1988, Nestle is able to take huge amounts of water off public lands while paying the Forest Service just $524 a year. So while California's Governor has proclaimed a state of emergency because of water shortages, Nestle's profiting from the little that's left. Does that make sense to you?

As for the plastic containers that bottled water comes in, plastic's made from oil and there's nothing good about drilling that stuff up. To avoid more drilling, ideally all plastic would get recycled over and over, but that's not what happens.

Less than one-third of plastic bottles in the U.S. currently get recycled. Litter, runoff from poorly managed landfills, and other sources mean that plastic bottles often end up out at sea or polluting our coastlines. This is where some really depressing problems start. Plastic doesn't break down like natural materials—it doesn't go away, it just goes from being a floating bottle to tiny plastic particles that are easily eaten by fish and other marine species or simply spread even further afield. A single one-liter bottle could break down into enough small fragments to put one on every mile of beach in the entire world. Ten to 20 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year.

Bottled water is just one example of heavily marketed stuff that we could just as easily do without.

As you're planning your holidays with friends or family in the coming week, please try to think before you buy. Will this really make me happier? Could I borrow or share someone else's? Is there a less packaged or non-disposable version of this? Or perhaps I could just do without it altogether?