As businesses, building owners and operators, and residents around the U.S. and world adopt renewable energy solutions in greater numbers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprints, they are becoming more familiar with the term “behind the meter,” or BTM. So what does BTM mean?
Behind-the-meter refers to electricity or power generated on site, independent of the grid. “The meter” is a reference to the electric meter at a site that measures how much grid energy is being used by the residence, business, or other facility. Energy that a site uses from BTM solutions are not measured by the meter—the meter measures energy consumed from front-of-the-meter generation. In contrast to BTM, front-of-the-meter (FTM) refers to utility-scale generation and storage, the traditional model of the electric grid.
Common examples of behind-the-meter resources are distributed energy resources (DERs) like solar panels and energy storage like batteries. Solar panels and batteries are often combined into solar + storage systems, whereby a business or individual generates power from rooftop solar panels or an on-site solar array to be consumed immediately or stored it in a battery for later use. Solar + storage systems often use automation and software to optimize the way they use energy from the BTM solutions, helping to reduce demand charges on electricity bills.
Behind-the-meter resources, i.e., those controlled by energy end-users, are growing in popularity as they provide energy consumers more resiliency and independence while also reducing their carbon footprint. To maximize resilience, some sites create microgrids by combining assets like solar, storage and gas-powered generators.
BTM resources are growing quickly, as they provide a number of benefits to communities—for instance, they can help to provide a powerful alternative to expensive “peaker” plants, which utilities call into use to avoid brown outs and black outs and are often powered by fossil fuels. Many states offer incentives for on-site solar and storage, and these assets can in some cases participate in lucrative programs like demand response.