Net metering for private solar and wind generation

How net metering works for private solar, wind and small hydro generation.

Net Metering and Private Generation

How net metering works

A graphic showing how net metering works.

How net metering works

  1. Solar panels or wind turbines convert energy from the sun or wind into electricity.
  2. An inverter converts the electricity for the customer's use.
  3. The electricity is used by the customer.
  4. A net meter measures the difference between energy used and energy produced.
  5. Excess energy travels on NorthWestern Energy's power lines.

What is net metering?

Net metering allows customers to generate their own electricity from solar power, small wind turbines, or small-scale hydro.

  • A net meter, provided by NorthWestern Energy, is needed to measure the energy produced and consumed during the billing period.

    Energy you produce

    If the electricity generated exceeds the amount consumed, NorthWestern Energy will use the excess energy balance toward future bills.



    Energy you consume

    If the electricity consumed exceeds the amount generated, the net energy will be billed to the customer.




    The difference between the energy produced and the energy consumed is net energy.


    Net Metering with NorthWestern Energy

    Once the Applicant is authorized for interconnected operation of the Small Generator Facility in accordance with the Applicant’s Interconnection Agreement, the system will be installed by a qualified installer. When your system has successfully passed inspections, NorthWestern Energy will request the installation of a net meter at your premises. The net meter is essential as it measures the difference between the energy your system produces and the energy you consume. 

    The system is not authorized to be activated until the utility installs the net meter and a welcome letter is received indicating the system can be activated.  

    • NorthWestern Energy customers may have an AMI Meter installed at the premise. We will communicate with the meter to update the meter to net metering. No visit to the premises or interruption of service is needed. 
    • NorthWestern Energy customers who do not have an AMI Meter installed at the premises will require a meter exchange to be completed at their premises. This new meter is programmed for net metering. There will be a brief power outage for the meter to be installed. It may take up to 20 business days for the meter to be installed at the premises.
      • When the area is in an active AMI meter deployment area, an AMI meter will be installed.

    A welcome letter will be mailed to you after the net meter is ready for the system to be activated.

    Considering adding solar panels to your home?

    Adding solar to your home is a big financial decision. Make sure you do your homework before you enter into a contract with a solar installer. Recently, we’ve seen a rise in aggressive and confusing marketing tactics. Most solar providers are honest and fair. However, there are some red flags to watch out for, and if a claim sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

    Choosing the Right Qualified Installer: Factors to Keep in Mind for Energy Efficiency Improvements

    At NorthWestern Energy, we understand the importance of making informed decisions when selecting a qualified installer for your energy efficiency improvements. To help you make the right choice, we encourage our customers to do their homework and consider the following:

    Get Multiple Bids and Check References

    Getting multiple bids from contractors to compare prices and services is always a good idea and allows you to make a well-informed decision and choose the contractor that best meets your needs. Additionally, checking references from past customers can give you valuable insights into the quality of their work and customer satisfaction.


    Charges And Fees

    Discuss all fees and charges with potential contractors before signing any contracts to be sure you know any upfront costs.


    Product, Service, and Contractor Selection

    We empower our customers to make choices that best suit their needs. You can select the products, services, and contractors you prefer for your energy efficiency improvements. We encourage you to explore your options and choose the solutions and professionals that align with your goals. Ensure your proposed system is sized appropriately for your needs. NorthWestern Energy does not have solar contractors.


    Look for NorthWestern Energy Logo

    When considering energy efficiency programs or incentives, looking for the NorthWestern Energy logo is essential. All program offerings promoted by NorthWestern Energy will include our logo, ensuring that you can trust the validity and credibility of the program. 


    Non-Net Metering Small Generator Interconnection Request Form

    Net Metering Rules & Tariffs

    NorthWestern Energy Small Generator Interconnection process is governed by Rules 16-23 of the Electric Tariff. For more information, check out the links below to find process documents, educational resources, and application materials for becoming a renewable energy customer.

    What is the One Time 12-month Billing Period Change Form?

    Choosing the right Annual Settle-up month is important. Applicants are encouraged to examine their electrical usage patterns and renewable energy system output to make an informed decision. The available Annual Settle- up months are January, April, July, and October.  You chose your Annual Settle-up month when completing Exhibit A, Required Net Meter Application Information form.

    The Annual Settle-up month is a crucial part of net metering, and it's important to understand how it works. At the Annual Settle-up month any remaining unused kilowatt-hour credit accumulated during the previous 12 months will be granted to NorthWestern Energy without compensation to you, the customer.   

    What to expect on your monthly statement with net metering

    Example of net metering billing statement with arrow pointing to the important account information section

    What to expect on your monthly statement with net metering

    When you have an excess energy balance, the balance will be noted on your statement in the Important Account Information section. 

    When there is no excess energy balance, you will be billed the actual kilowatt-hours (kWh) and kilowatts (kW) consumed based on your energy usage. You can find the net energy billed amount on page 2 of your statement. When there is no excess energy balance, there is no excess energy balance to report on your bill.   

    Any excess balance remaining upon termination of the agreement or transfer of ownership will be granted to NorthWestern Energy with no compensation to the customer.

    Upon speaking to an agent to transfer the service to your name, the agent will inform you there is a net meter at your premises. You’ll receive a welcome letter for net metering and Exhibit A Required Net Meter Application Information form, where you’ll select your annual settle-up month.

    NorthWestern Energy does not have access to your system data. For any questions or concerns about your existing net metering system, it is best to contact your installer directly.

    NorthWestern Energy can assist you with reading your statement. Please contact us at 888-467-2669.