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This past Thursday was Thanksgiving. A time when we remember a feast, the first Thanksgiving, on Plymouth plantation in the autumn of 1621. The tales of pilgrims from the Mayflower who celebrated the harvest, shared and broke bread with the first Americans, are still used as inspiration and shared with children, teaching them the beauty of gratitude.

Standing Rock.©Lori Panico

But it is now widely understood this Thanksgiving story is a fictional history. It was invented to whitewash the vicious genocide wrought upon the native inhabitants of this magnificent continent. Not only did the Europeans try to eradicate native populations, but they made every effort to eviscerate their culture, their language and eliminate them from these coveted lands.

From Plymouth Rock to Standing Rock, this lie has made our Thanksgiving Day a day of mourning for the First Nations, all the tribes big and small, those who came before us.

A few weeks ago we traveled to visit the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota. We arrived at this unprecedented historical gathering of more than 500 tribes and thousands of others standing on the frontlines to protect water, to state the most basic human truth, to say water is life. Despite the painful history, today they fight peacefully for us all.

The camp grows as winter comes. Standing in protection of our most vital life support systems, but also for the rightful preservation of Native American cultural ways and their sovereignty. Everyone we talk with is committed to peaceful resistance. Weapons, alcohol and drugs are forbidden there.

Standing together in prayer to protect water displays a deeply rooted awareness of life's interconnected nature, and of the intrinsic value and import of traditional ways. This growing movement stems from love, it is the most human instinct to protect that which we love. An eager and engaged youth are at the core of this pipeline route resistance, learning from a population of elders who pass down unforgotten knowledge.

It is an awakening. All here together, with their non-native relatives, standing strong in the face of outrageous, unnecessary and violent aggression, on the part of militarized local and state law enforcement agencies and national guard, who are seemingly acting to protect the interests of the Dakota Access pipeline profiteers, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, above all other expressed concerns. They stand against corporate security forces, the county sheriff and the national guard. Standing while being hit with water cannons, mace, teargas, rubber bullets. Standing without weapons and praying, the water protectors endure human rights abuses in freezing temperatures. Supplies arrive from all over as the social media universe shares the heartbreaking news to the world, that an American corporate media is not free to report. Thus, it is the ugliness of corporate America, seen around the world.

But they stand, their hair frozen from water cannons. They stand for all that is good and they stay strong.

We are calling upon you, President Barack Obama, to step in and end the violence against the peaceful water protectors at Standing Rock immediately.

We will be going back to support the water protectors again.

Let us all stand with them in thanks, in appreciation for the ancient wisdom they carry, in thanks for this opportunity for true gratitude. For giving us a path forward. For trying to show us a road to survival.

We offer our support and our respect. We hear the call to protect the water protectors to listen, learn and get engaged. They are brave. We thank them. And we can give thanks for the bounty.

Like water on the garden of activism, America's surprise president brings a bounty of opportunity. The great issues of our time are now brightly illuminated and people are becoming more aware of them than ever, from sea to shining sea, from Standing Rock to Wall Street.

The surprise president-elect was not the winner of the popular vote, does not have a mandate for the change of ideals envisioned. Keep in mind, close to over two million more people voted for another candidate. Nor is the surprise president the leader of the free world. Two hundred of the world's nations believe in science, above the profits of the oil, gas and coal industries, and are committed to working together to protect the future from an unchecked climate crisis. The surprise president claims he does not believe in climate science nor the threats it presents and his actions and words reflect that claim in tangible and dangerous ways.

Do not be intimidated by the surprise president's cabinet appointees as they descend the golden escalator. Those who behave in racist ways are not your leaders. The golden tower is not yours. The White House is your house.Your growing activism in support of freedom over repression, addressing climate change, swiftly replacing a destructive old industries with safe, regenerative energy, encouraging holistic thinking in balance with the future of our planet; that activism will strengthen and shed continued light on us all. These worthy goals must be met for all the world's children and theirs after them.

This is our moment for truth.

Unintimidated, stand, speak up and show up. Be counted. Be like our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock. Be there if you can. The progress we have made over 240 years as a nation, has always come first from the people.

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Sometime last year I had the great fortune to be swimming in an extremely remote part of the southern Pacific Ocean. I was floating over one of the last coral reefs to still have some pops of otherworldly, shocking, neon bright color left here and there.

Between the green grey algae coating and the bleached white bones you could still find a mesmerizing hot pink or a blinding chartreuse. Gliding along, looking for some of these colorful signs of life, I spot what looks like a miniature pair of slender legs sticking up from the coral skeletons.

It was as if a very tiny person was diving into another worlds portal.

And sure enough she was ...

I pulled at a tiny foot, and out of the branches of dead coral came a thing from another era.

A coral encrusted body emerged, her long blond hair now twisted with a pale green seaweed. She was a 1970s Barbie stuck for decades, like so much plastic and styrofoam in the ocean, never to biodegrade. Because her head was buried, the last time she had seen this reef was several decades ago, when it was still a veritable rainbow teeming with fish, sea mammals and color.

She'd been transformed not into a Barbie mermaid, but Barbie sea hag, and the reef transformed into a ghostly abandoned shell of its former self.

What a shock.

What has happened.

These last few days I've been swimming again in the clear warm waters of the Pacific.

A part of the world where I first learned to scuba dive when I was a preteen. It was here I first realized that under the sea was another entire parallel world. One that was exploding with amazing, intricate shapes, outrageous colors and filled with all kinds of life forms, striped, spotted, illuminated, transparent, miraculous. It's when I first wanted to be a mermaid.

My heart is breaking now, as I see these corals smothered in slime and find only a few lonely fish dotting what was once a glorious wonder.

Tragically, this is not endemic to one part of the world.

It is a global crisis.

Just recently, reports shocked the world, as news of a massive bleaching event killed off a third of Earth's Great Barrier Reef.

Healthy coral is essential to a healthy planet. Coral provides a home to more than a million diverse species, they give protection to coastal cities and communities, and are a source of medicines that treat dangerous illnesses and diseases. Reefs create food, jobs and income for millions.

In a short time we have collectively exacerbated the death spiral of these fragile life forms and since most humans don't spend much time under water, most are not aware of its dire state.

It is decimated.

It is an emergency.

It is dying, and fast.

But, we know what needs to be done to reverse the destruction of coral reefs. They are big changes, but not impossible and we could save an entire ecosystem from collapse and possibly help save ourselves. Interestingly, many of the solutions to help our ocean and coral reefs are the same required for the revitalization and climate crisis mitigation on land.

To prevent ocean acidification and warming, we need to:

  • create more "hope spots," marine sanctuaries, places where fish have the opportunity to repopulate and corals can grow
  • reforest and build soil, which helps to secure soil stability and helps prevent runoff, it brings fertility and sequesters carbon
  • shift away from industrial agriculture models to sustainable, small scale, non chemical, permaculture agriculture
  • create a stringent plan for the runoff from new and existing coastal developments or golf courses which lead to lethal algae blooms
  • reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and swiftly shift to clean regenerative energy
  • create and enforce more stringent laws that prevent overfishing, including poaching of tropical, algae eating reef fish for the aquarium and pet industry
  • ban destructive fishing practices like trawling
  • reject or ban non-biodegradable disposable pollution like plastics and styrofoam
  • require warning labels on coral killing sunblock

I understand there will soon be a remake of the film Splash. I'm afraid they could search the world for locations to match the corals we swam through in 1984 making the original Splash, and never find them. Ultimately, I'm afraid they will have to simulate them with special effects or computer-generated imagery, just like we will have to make real changes in the way we live on this Earth to reestablish a healthy ocean. I deeply wish, from the bottom of my heart and from the bottom of this suffering ocean, that all those involved might have the opportunity to witness some of its glory, that they may make a film which in some way helps to preserve the life of the ocean that this fairy tale celebrates.

May they fall in love with the ocean, and the magnificence of this underwater world, and may their love for this crucial life support system inspire and galvanize them to help us do whatever is necessary to abate its untimely death.

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.

Daryl Hannah
Insights Writers
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