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Behind The Meter Electricity Generation

What Does Behind The Meter 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, whereas the power provided by a front-ofmeter system must pass through an electric meter before reaching the end-user.

Types of BTM systems include:

  • On-site generation i.e. any energy generation on your property which can be used on the premises including home solar panels or small wind turbines.
  • On-site energy storage e.g. electricity stored in a home battery which goes directly from the battery to your home appliances without passing through an electrical meter.
  • Microgrids – small grids which can run independently of the national grid (although they may retain a connection) and are used to power a small number of buildings. They consist of generation, a transmission system, and sometimes battery storage.
 

The Benefits of BTM Systems

Systems which export to the grid receive the wholesale electricity price (c.3.5p - 5p/kWh) which is significantly lower than retail electricity prices, whereas electricity produced by BTM installations that is not exported beyond the meter is competing with much higher retail prices (~15p/kWh). BTM generators selling locally can charge more than the wholesale price but less than the retail price which has the advantage, for both the generator and consumer, of providing shared savings. This is because BTM systems avoid network charges associated with electricity imported from the grid.

Incorporating storage into your BTM installation helps generators increase their revenue even more because batteries reduce the level of imports and exports from and to the grid. For example, a solar PV system which generates excess electricity during the day when the sun is shining, can store the excess to be sold later in the day rather than export to the grid at wholesale prices.

 

BTM can be a great option for community groups located on the grid. It allows them to sell their energy locally providing a higher source of income than export alone, however, they also retain the option of connecting to the grid as a backup when demand exceeds local supply. But what about groups who live in remote off-grid areas?

 

Off-grid renewable energy generation

If you live in a remote area with no connection to the national electrical grid network, then you will need to consider off-grid renewable energy options. Many off-grid communities currently rely on diesel generators for electricity but installing a renewable off-grid electrical system will reduce your carbon footprint and provide savings on your energy bills.

Developing an off-grid renewable energy project will involve many of the same considerations as developing an on-grid project but with some additional issues to think about:

 

1. Establish demand

You should establish the peak and general power demand if the power is to be supplied on a networked system, however, communities previously without a mains connection should also be aware that overall electricity consumption may increase if a 24-7 electrical supply is installed.

2. Battery storage

Most common renewable technologies such as wind, hydro and solar PV are suitable for offgrid scenarios but a self-sufficient system will likely require some form of battery storage to store electricity generated at times of low demand for release at times when demand exceeds generation. A battery system designed to cope with a range of generation and demand fluctuations will be required so that power is available when needed and will avoid the need to fall back on fossil fuel driven back-ups.

 

3. Multiple energy sources

Depending on your locale, you may need to consider the integration and management of multiple energy sources. These can be quite complex projects and will require a high level of time commitment in terms of initial feasibility and design stages, and also in the operational phase.

4. Local skills and knowledge

Once a system has been installed and commissioned there will need to be expertise in the locality to maintain and repair the systems. This can mean that local residents may have an opportunity to up-skill for such a role.

 

5. Cost factors

If you are considering an off-grid system it is likely that you live in a remote area. It is important to bear in mind that projects undertaken in remote locations tend to have larger overheads and are logistically more complex.

 

Knoydart and Eigg are two communities that do not have mains grid connection and relied on diesel generators for their electrical supply. Both communities have successfully installed electrical networks powered by renewable energy. To find out more about them, go to our Case Studies resource.

 

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