Last Updated on September 24, 2022 by Mary Pressler
Solar Buyback Programs and Net Metering Incentives in Texas
Solar power systems are a source of clean electricity, with simple maintenance needs and a typical service life of over two decades. The main challenge when using solar panels is managing their variable energy production: they generate electricity when sunshine is available, unlike a diesel generator that provides power on demand.
Electricity generation from a solar power system can exceed consumption at times, especially in homes that are empty during the day. Many energy companies have programs that reward solar PV system owners for surplus generation. These programs are varied, but their common purpose is making surplus generation more valuable for the client.
What Is Net Metering?
Net metering is normally used to handle surplus electricity from solar panels. In Texas, there are many electricity providers who will buy back, or give you credit for your excess solar power.
- Every kilowatt-hour that is not consumed is sent to the grid, and deducted as credit from the next power bill.
- Some energy companies give full credit, paying you the retail kWh price for extra production.
- On the other hand, there are also companies that only give credit at the generation cost for them, not the full kWh price.
Net metering basically subtracts solar generation from electricity consumption, and you are only billed for the difference. If generation exceeds consumption, the rules change depending on the energy company: in most cases you get a credit that is rolled over to the next month, and in some rare cases they actually pay you for surplus energy.
Feed-in tariffs are rates that apply for surplus electricity exported to the grid. While net metering values consumption and generation equally, a feed-in tariff provides a different price tag for surplus generation. FITs are normally smaller than the retail kWh price, but utility companies may set them higher to incentive solar power in new markets. If the FIT and the retail kWh price are equal, you are basically getting net metering.
Performance-based incentives reward you based on generation, even if you don’t have surplus production. This means you get the incentive regardless of whether you consume or export the electricity generated.
Keep in mind that utility companies may create hybrid programs. For example, you may find a company that gives you full net metering for all electricity generation below your consumption, switching to a reduced feed-in tariff when paying balances in your favor.
Texas does not mandate net metering by law, but many Retail Electricity Providers (REPs) and municipal power companies offer the benefit. This article will provide an overview of the best solar buyback and net metering programs in the state as of 2022.
Residential Net Metering Programs from Retail Electricity Providers
In most regions of Texas, you can choose your electricity company thanks to deregulation. Some electricity plans are designed specially for consumers who own solar panels, and in many cases they can boost savings. Texas has dozens of electricity providers, and each of them offers multiple electricity plans.
However, the following light companies offer some of the best plans for solar panel owners:
- Almika Solar
- Amigo Energy
- Green Mountain Energy
- Infuse Energy
- Shell Energy
- Octopus Energy
- Reliant Energy
- Rhythm Energy
- TXU Energy
- Champion Energy Services
- Chariot Energy
- Just Energy
Compare Solar Buyback Plans in Texas
The following table summarizes all current Texas solar buyback plans.
|Electricity Provider||Electricity Plans with Solar Buyback||Solar kWh Purchase Price||Additional Conditions|
|Almika Solar||12-Month Buyback
|Solar buyback rate not specified by the company.||Available for home solar systems up to 25 kW.
Solar credits are rolled over to the next month, but they expire once per year (no cash payment option).
Truly Fixed Price
12th Month Free
Base Saver III
|Solar buyback rate not specified by the company.||Customers must review the Sell Back Agreement provided by Amigo Energy. They can call 855-215-2259 to contact the Distributed Generation team.|
|Green Mountain Energy||Renewable Rewards Essential||Same as the retail kWh price.||Available for solar power systems below 50 kW of capacity.
The maximum credit available for surplus solar generation is your monthly energy usage from the grid (no rollover).
|Infuse Energy||Lean Green Infusion
Loyalty Green Infusion
|Same as the retail kWh price.||The maximum credit available for surplus solar generation is your monthly energy usage from the grid (no rollover).|
|Shell Energy||Solar Buyback||Real-time wholesale market price.||No solar buyback limit.
Unused credits are rolled over to the next month, but there is no cash payment option for surplus production.
|Real-time wholesale market price.||Solar buyback credit is rolled over to the next month, with no limit and no expiration date.
You can request a cash payment for unused solar buyback credits when the balance reaches $50, or when your contract ends.
|Reliant Energy||Solar Payback Plus||Solar feed-in tariff specified in Electricity Facts Label (different from retail kWh price).||Available for solar power systems below 50 kW of capacity.
Unlimited credit accumulation.
|Rhythm Energy||Rooftop Solar Buyback||Same as the retail kWh price.||Available for solar power systems below 20 kW of capacity.
The maximum credit available for surplus solar generation is your monthly energy usage from the grid (no rollover).
|TXU Energy||Home Solar Buyback||Same as the retail kWh price.|
|Champion Energy||Champ Saver
|Real-time wholesale market price.||Unused credits are rolled over to the next month, but there is no cash payment option for surplus production.
Depending on the plan chosen, you can get a $50-$100 LED bulb rebate and a $50 smart thermostat rebate.
|Chariot Energy||Rise Solar Energy Buyback||Same as the retail kWh price.||No solar buyback limit, and unused credits are rolled over to the next month.|
100% Green Nights Free
Base Saver III
Just Earth Rewards
|Solar buyback rate not specified by the company.||Solar buyback details not provided in Just Energy website and Electricity Facts Labels (EFL).|
Austin Energy Solar Buyback For Homes and Businesses
Austin Energy is the municipal utility of Austin, and they manage separate solar buyback programs for residential and commercial clients.
Residential energy consumers get a Value of Solar (VOS) credit for every kWh generated, at a rate of 9.7 cents/kWh. Since this incentive is for solar power generation, you get it for the full output of your photovoltaic system, not only for surplus production – the value is then subtracted from your total power bill. Austin Energy also offers a cash rebate of $2,500 for eligible home solar systems with at least 3 kW of capacity.
Since January 2018, commercial consumers also get the VOS credit. However, there are three possible values depending on the type of service and system capacity. The following table summarizes VOS credits for the commercial sector:
|Does the client pay demand rates?||No||Yes||Yes|
|What is the solar PV system capacity?||Any||Less than 1,000 kW||1,000 kW or more|
|Applicable VOS Tariff||9.7 cents/kWh||6.7 cents/kWh||4.7 cents/kWh|
In addition to getting the Value of Solar (VoS) credit, commercial electricity consumers with solar arrays can choose one of the following incentives:
- Performance-Based Incentive (PBI) – The solar PV system gets a credit for each kilowatt-hour generated, during five years.
- Capacity-Based Incentive (CBI) – The solar PV system gets an upfront incentive, which is calculated based on installed capacity.
These incentives change depending on the type of electricity consumer and the capacity of the solar array, according to the following table:
|Type of Customer||PBI||CBI|
|Nonprofit organization||Not available||$1 per watt DC, up to $400,000|
|Commercial user with a solar installation below 75 kW||9 cents/kWh||$0.60 per watt DC|
|Commercial user with a solar installation over 75 kW, up to 400 kW||9 cents/kWh||Not available|
|Commercial user with a solar installation from 400 kW to 999 kW||7 cents/kWh||Not available|
|Commercial user with a solar installation larger than 1 MW||5 cents/kWh||Not available|
San Antonio: CPS Energy Net Metering
CPS Energy has a net metering program for energy consumers, with the following rules:
- All electricity generation below the monthly consumption is credited at full price. For example, if a home consumes 500 kWh from the grid, and exports 450 kWh of surplus solar production, the bill is calculated for 50 kWh.
- If electricity generation is higher than consumption, the surplus is credited at the avoided cost rate. This is the price that CPS Energy would have paid to get that electricity from power plants.
CPS Energy also manages a rebate program to help purchase solar power systems. The residential rebate is $2,500 per installation, with an additional $500 for using local solar panels. On the other hand, the commercial rebate is $0.60/watt up to 25 kW, and $0.40/watt for any capacity above 25 kW. In this case, the rebate is increased by $0.10/watt when using local solar panels.
Net Metering Programs in Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth
Unlike Austin and San Antonio, where a single municipal utility sets the rules for solar power, Houston and DFW have a deregulated market where electricity consumers can choose their provider. This section will focus on the main retail electricity providers (REP) with solar buyback programs: Rhythm, Shell Energy, Green Mountain, TXU and Reliant.
Rhythm Energy Rooftop Solar Buyback Program
Rhythm Energy has a popular solar buyback plan for Texans that allows for a one for one kWh rate. The Rooftop Solar Buyback Plan is a 12 month contract with a fixed energy rate. This means your rate stays the same, no matter what the Texas electricity market does.
Shell Energy Solar Buyback Program
Shell Energy has the Solar Buyback program for the Oncor and CenterPoint service areas. All surplus generation from solar PV systems is credited at the real-time wholesale price, and subtracted from subsequent power bills. There is no solar buyback limit and unused credits are rolled over to the next month until you need them, but there is no cash payment option.
Green Mountain Energy Renewable Rewards Program
Green Mountain Energy offers the Renewable Rewards program, where surplus generation is credited at the retail price. However, you cannot accumulate credit above your consumption (no rollover to the next month).
The Renewable Rewards program is available if you have a bidirectional power meter and your solar energy system capacity is below 50 kW. This program is also available for wind turbine owners.
TXU Energy Home Solar Buyback Program
TXU Energy offers the Home Solar Buyback program, where you get credit for surplus generation at the retail energy price. The main drawback of this program is that the maximum monthly credit is limited by your consumption. This means you cannot claim credits for solar production that exceeds your consumption, and there is no rollover.
Reliant Energy Solar Payback Program
Reliant offers the Solar Payback Plan. Surplus generation from your solar panels is credited at a feed-in tariff specified in the Electricity Facts Label, which is different from the retail kWh price. This program is available for solar PV systems smaller than 50 kW, and there is no credit accumulation limit.
Champion Energy Solar Buyback Programs
Champion Energy has become one of the fastest growing REPs in Texas. They have several electricity plans with a solar buyback option, which also offer other benefits:
- Champ Saver – Fixed kWh price for 1-3 years.
- Champ Silver – Discounts for customers aged 60 or higher. $50 in free LED bulbs and smart appliance rebates when signing for at least 24 months.
- Green Energy – 100% of your grid consumption is generated from green sources.
- Free Weekends – Free electricity period during the weekends, for 18-24 months.
When you export surplus solar power, Champion Energy applies the real-time settlement price of the wholesale market, which changes at 15-minute intervals. This is a major advantage during summer at times of peak demand, since the wholesale price can become much higher than your retail price.
El Paso Electric Company Net Metering
El Paso Electric (EPE) offers net metering solar power systems up to 50 kW, which practically covers all residential systems. However, your solar PV system must be sized based on your electricity consumption during the last year before the installation, which means you cannot oversize.
Electricity is credited at the retail price, and you can reduce your power bill to a minimum of $30.25 per month. EPE will pay you for any accumulated credits whenever the balance reaches $50. If necessary, EPE will install a bidirectional power meter at no cost for the client.
Lubbock Power and Light Net Metering
Currently, Lubbock is in the process of joining the ERCOT power grid. Lubbock Power & Light connected 70% of their system to ERCOT in May 2021, and the remaining 30% will connect by May 2023. Once LP&L has fully joined the deregulated electricity market, Lubbock citizens will be able to choose their retail electricity provider. In the meantime, LP&L will continue operating as their provider.
LP&L has a net metering program for solar power systems, but the company has not explained what will happen when Lubbock is fully connected to the ERCOT grid. LP&L will most likely remain as the default electricity provider for customers who don’t choose another one, and their net metering program can be expected to remain available. Lubbock consumers who choose other providers will be subject to their respective net metering conditions.
- To join the LP&L net metering program, your solar panel system must first get a permit from the City of Lubbock Building Inspection Department.
- LP&L will then add your account to their net metering program, after installing a suitable power meter for your property.
- The LP&L net metering program is available for solar power systems up to 10 kW.
LP&L offers net metering up to 100% of your consumption, and there is no credit for surplus production above your monthly consumption. However, LP&L offers another incentive: homeowners with solar panels have access to lower kilowatt-hour prices when using the grid. The best strategy is installing a solar power system that generates less electricity than what your home consumes, and purchasing the difference from LP&L at discounted price.
The kilowatt-hour prices charged by LP&L for electricity consumption that is not covered by your solar panels are extremely low. These kWh prices are only available for solar owners in their net metering program:
|Time of the Year||kWh Price for LP&L Net Metering Customers|
|Summer months, June – September||$0.01292/kWh up to 1,000 kWh
$0.02349/kWh for consumption over 1,000 kWh
|Non-summer months, October – May||$0.00397/kWh up to 1,000 kWh
$0.01175/kWh for consumption over 1,000 kWh
The LP&L net metering program is unusual, but beneficial for homeowners. This program rewards solar panel systems that are properly sized, with net metering up to 100% of your consumption and a low kWh price for consumption not covered by your solar panels. However, oversized solar power systems get no rewards for generating electricity above your consumption, and there is a 10 kW capacity limit.
If you live in a home with solar panels in Lubbock, and you plan to switch your electricity provider when the market opens, check their net metering conditions. Make sure your next electricity provider offers a solar buyback program in Lubbock, or you may no longer get credit for surplus generation. In this case, you would be forced to switch your electricity plan again, or install a battery system.
Xcel Energy: Net Metering in Amarillo
Amarillo and most Panhandle cities are not connected to the ERCOT grid, and instead they get electricity from the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). Unlike the ERCOT grid, which is completely inside Texas, the SPP crosses several states and is subject to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Homes and businesses in Amarillo get their electricity through the SPP grid from Xcel Energy, who offers a net energy metering program.
Xcel Energy measures surplus generation from solar panels, subtracting it from your monthly power bill at the full retail price. If electricity generation from your solar panels is higher than your consumption, they offers two options:
- Rolling over your credit each month until you need them.
- Getting a cash payment for surplus production.
Xcel Energy offers an excellent net metering program, but your solar PV system cannot generate more than 120% of your consumption. In other words, there is a limit to how much you can get paid by Xcel Energy. At most, you will be able to cover 100% of your consumption and get a credit equivalent to 20% of your consumption. There is an upfront interconnection fee of $100, but you gain access to a net metering program that credits you the full value of solar power sent to the grid.
Xcel Energy customers in Amarillo can also accumulate Renewable Energy Credits or RECs for solar generation. You get one REC for every 1,000 kWh generated by your solar panels, and these credits can then be sold to organizations with renewable energy obligations. In simple terms, one REC is the proof of having generated one megawatt-hour (1,000 kWh). They are purchased by companies who are subject to clean energy mandates, but there are also organizations who purchase them voluntarily.
Brownsville Public Utilities Board Net Metering
The Brownsville Public Utilities Board provides electricity for nearly 50,000 residential customers and more than 6,300 commercial customers. To serve its clients, Brownsville PUB uses a combination of direct-ownership power plants and electricity purchases in the wholesale market. As of September 2022, they charge the following electricity rate for residential consumers:
- $6.94 fixed customer charge
- $0.05141/kWh up to 500 kWh
- $0.06826/kWh for consumption over 500 kWh
- Variable fuel and purchase energy charge (FPEC), $0.08093/kWh as of September 2022
- In other words, the first 500 kWh are billed at $0.13234/kWh, and the price increases to $0.14919/kWh for consumption over 500 kWh.
Brownsville PUB has a net metering program for solar panel systems and small wind turbines. Both system types must be approved by the City of Brownsville Building Permit Division, and surplus electricity is credited at the Fuel & Purchase Energy Charge (FPEC). There is an upfront fee of $100, which covers the cost of upgrading to a bidirectional power meter.
Entergy Texas: Net Metering in Beaumont
Entergy Texas provides electricity for several eastern cities, including Beaumont. The Entergy service area is covered by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which operates across state borders subject to FERC regulation. MISO is independent from ERCOT, which operates completely inside Texas without federal regulation.
Entergy Texas classifies solar power systems into small qualifying facilities (SQF) and large qualifying facilities (LQF) depending on their installed capacity, and this determines the net metering conditions offered by the company.
- Generators with a capacity up to 100 kW qualify for Schedule SQF.
- Generators over 100 kW qualify for Schedule LQF.
- Schedule SQF has special conditions for generators below 50 kW using renewable sources like solar energy, wind energy and biofuels.
Entergy Texas offers net metering under Schedule SQF, but surplus electricity production is credited at their avoided cost, not the full retail price. This avoided cost is calculated as an average of peak and off-peak rates, based on the latest annual filing with the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT). Consumers under Schedule SQF may also qualify for capacity payments as a class, but only if their generation systems reduce capacity costs for Entergy.
- If your solar generation is higher than your consumption, and the balance in your favor is higher than $50, Entergy will send you a check.
- If your credit is lower, it will be rolled over to the next month until the balance reaches $50.
Schedule SQF has a monthly charge of $12.35 for customers with a delivery voltage below 2,400 V, and $22.65 for customers between 2.4 kV and 34.5 kV. However, customers with bidirectional power meters and renewable energy systems up to 50 kW of capacity are exempt from this charge.
Schedule LQF (>100 kW) also includes solar buyback, but Entergy Texas calculates the kilowatt-hour price paid to each customer independently. To determine the monthly avoided cost, Entergy uses energy settlement data provided by the system operator (MISO).
City of Brenham Net Metering
The City of Brenham Electric Department also has a net metering program, similar to EPE. Solar generation below your monthly consumption is credited at full price, while surplus generation is credited at the avoided cost rate, which is reviewed and updated annually.
The City of Brenham municipal utility manages 119 miles of power lines and two substations, with over 6,900 electric accounts.
Solar buyback programs in Texas are as varied as the retail electricity providers in the deregulated market. Each company sets its own rules, and some offer better deals than others. If you are considering a solar PV system for your property, find an solar electricity plan that offers favorable conditions:
- Look for net metering to get full credit for surplus generation. If you don’t have access to net metering, look for the best feed-in rate available.
- Check the conditions for surplus generation: Look for a plan where you can roll-over credits for subsequent power bills.
Some regions in Texas don’t have deregulated power, and you can only buy electricity from one company. However, net metering is available in some cities with a single power company, which include Austin, San Antonio and El Paso.
Solar Buyback Programs for Commercial Properties
For information regarding net metering incentives for commercial buildings, we recommend ProStar Energy Solutions. From conception to installation, Pro Star Energy consultants can manage your corporate solar project and make sure you get the maximum payout from your panels.
Read more about commercial net metering in Texas and the United States.