A key to encouraging people to install solar panels on their homes is making sure it lowers their electricity bills. That's essentially what net metering does.
Net metering accounts for both power used and power generated on site – at a house or a business. Then, utilities can charge or credit the customer accordingly. The vast majority of net metering is set up for solar panels.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the number of people using net metering in the U.S. grew by more than 50 percent a year every year from 2003 to 2010.
In 2003, there were 6,813 net metering customers across the country and most of them were in California. By 2010, there were 155,841. More than 90 percent of them were residential customers.
Loose translation: More and more people are putting solar panels up on their homes.
Even after that jump, though, the net metering customers were only .1 percent of all electric customers in the U.S. in 2010.
Pacific Power and Portland General Electric are seeing similar trends (though the portion of customers doing net metering here is even less than .1 percent). PGE’s net metering customers jumped from 594 in 2009 to 2,350 in 2012 (out of 825,000 total customers). Pacific Power’s pool in Oregon grew from 852 in 2009 to 2,296 as of February of this year (out of 558,721 total customers in the state).
Here's a quick chart: