The electricity system is changing, from the way we generate power to the way we distribute and use it. All grid-tied energy systems are situated either “in front of the meter” or “behind the meter”, and as more and more electric customers take control of their production and usage, it is important to understand the fundamental differences between these two positions on the larger electric grid.
What does behind-the-meter really mean?
The difference between behind-the-meter (BTM) and front-of-meter systems comes down to an energy system’s position in relation to your electric meter. A BTM system provides power that can be used on-site without passing through a meter, while a front-of-meter system provides power to off-site locations. The power provided by a front-of-meter system must pass through an electric meter before reaching an end-user.
BTM systems can provide energy directly to your home or business without going through an electric meter and interacting with the electric grid. If electricity has to pass through your electric meter to reach your property, that electricity came from in front of the meter, or the grid. If electricity doesn’t need to pass through an electric meter to reach your property, that electricity came from a BTM system. All electricity end customers sit behind the meter.
Examples of BTM energy systems
There are many kinds of BTM energy systems. Here are a few common types to be aware of:
Any energy generation on your property is considered behind the meter. This includes home solar panel systems, small wind turbines, and even gas-powered generators. All of these technologies generate electricity that you can use on the premises. In the case of wind and solar, excess generation can be sent through your meter and to the grid for credit on your electricity bill (known as net metering).
On-site energy storage
Energy storage systems on your property are also behind-the-meter systems. Electricity stored in a home battery, for example, goes directly from the battery to your home appliances without passing through an electrical meter.
A more complicated type of BTM energy system is a microgrid. Microgrids are miniature versions of the larger electric grid that works to power a small number of buildings. Microgrids consist of generation, a transmission system, and sometimes battery storage. All of these components live behind the meter, as there is no need to pull electricity from the grid to keep the system energized.
Examples of in front of the meter energy systems
In contrast, here are examples of common front-of-meter energy systems:
Just about all large generation facilities that feed into the power grid are positioned in front of the meter. This includes fossil fuel generation like coal and gas, as well as renewable energy like wind, solar, and geothermal.
Utility-scale energy storage
Over time, utilities are installing large storage facilities, often paired with renewable energy generation plants. These storage facilities also sit in front of the meter because the electricity they dispatch must pass through electric meters at individual properties before it can be used for power.
Transmission and distribution lines
Utility-scale electricity needs to get to end consumers via the transmission and distribution system, which means that this system is also a front-of-meter energy setup. The poles and wires you see driving along most roads that transport electricity to your property are part of this transmission and distribution infrastructure and sit in front of the meter.
Explore your behind-the-meter options on EnergySage
Behind-the-meter systems like residential solar panel installations can be a great way to save on electricity bills and take control of your personal energy usage. Best of all, many states have some form of net metering policy that compensates you for the excess generation you send to the electrical grid. Check out EnergySage’s Solar Calculator to see how much solar alone can save you, and register for the EnergySage Marketplace to receive quotes