The energy sector is evolving away from traditional power generation and distribution. This transition has been escalating over the last decade. While traditionally, all grid-tied systems have been located in front of the meter, an increasing number of new systems are behind the meter.
Many experts predict that the future of energy and power generation, including hydrogen generation, will be behind the meter as more individuals start taking control of both usage and production.
In this article, we will explore what hydrogen generation behind the meter means. Specifically, the fundamental difference when compared to generation in front of the meter.
Behind The Meter Power and Hydrogen Generation
The significant difference between behind the meter (BTM) and in front of the meter all comes down to the location of a building’s utility meter.
For instance, a BTM system that provides power to a home does not pass electricity through the meter that connects the home to the electrical grid. Instead, the BTM system takes power generated at home (ex: roof-top solar) and delivers the electricity directly to the house without interacting with the electrical grid. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory created this presentation about behind-the-meter projects.
A BTM system provides energy directly to a business or home without passing through an electric meter or having anything to do with the electric grid. If the electricity or even gas has to pass through your meter to enter your home or place of business, it is classified as an “in front of the meter” system.
Traditionally, there has always been a utility company that provides gas or power in front of the meter and charges each month for it.
At present, there are various types of BTM energy systems. Some of the most common include:
Any energy generated on your property is classified as behind the meter. The same goes for on-site hydrogen gas generation.
Generally, BTM systems will include solar panels, wind turbines, battery systems, and gas-powered generators, which could soon be converted to hydrogen-powered generators.
The power generated by these generators can be used for electricity at home or to power businesses.
Most interestingly, the excess electricity generated by wind and solar behind the meter can be turned around and dispatched out to the meter and sold directly to the power utility company. This is then adjusted via your electricity bill, also known as net metering.
Currently, these storage systems usually take the form of batteries that store energy during periods of low-cost grid-supplied electricity, then release the power during expensive periods of limited electricity supply. This is known as peak shaving.
Since these Energy Storage Systems provide power and sit between the meter and the house, they are referred to as a BTM systems. We could see low-cost batteries replacing expensive Tesla Power Walls in the future. These cells would power the home, and homeowners would sell the excess power to the utility company.
Microgrids are a more complex type of BTM energy system. These are often smaller versions of their larger counterparts and are used to power a small building or a few small buildings. The grids comprise a power generation, transmission, and battery storage system.
All the systems exist behind the meter, which means users don’t consume electricity provided by the utility company.
Microgrids of the future could rely on on-site methane pyrolysis to generate clean hydrogen for emission-free power generation. This hydrogen generation approach is very environmentally friendly.
Behind The Meter Hydrogen Production
At present, behind-the-meter hydrogen generation is rare. However, recent advancements in related technologies are poised to change all of that.
Technologies like clean methane reforming and turquoise hydrogen will allow for a more user-friendly and cost-effective hydrogen supply.
This, in turn, will enable vehicle fueling stations to stock and sell accessible hydrogen fuel that could be used in place of compressed natural gas (CNG) for use in fleet vehicles and class-8 trucks. The excess hydrogen can then be used to generate electricity on-site or sold back to the utility company.
However, utilities are also expected to evolve along with the market for new technologies. Regulatory bodies in forward-thinking states, such as California, have made history with emissions reduction requirements and incentives to generate clean power and use clean fuels for transportation.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) passed the USA’s first energy storage mandate that directed local utilities in the state to acquire around 1325 megawatts of storage capacity by 2020. The impact of this type of energy storage in the market was instantaneous and has since changed the game for BTM systems. In part, it has been responsible for increasing solar generation.
Apart from grid-scale storage, the state of California allows customer-located storage to help meet this mandate. This offers a significant opportunity for third-party ownership models behind the meter.
Consider that there are over 40,000 commercial buildings in the state of California.
Assume that the typical behind-the-meter storage system for a business would have a capacity of around 25 kilowatt-hours. Do the math, and you’ll see that this potential energy storage reserve for the state of California would be approximately 1,000 megawatt hours. This would be enough power to satisfy around a third of the state’s mandated energy storage.
In addition, California offers favorable economics for such projects. Incentives like California’s Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) provide rebates for qualifying energy systems.
With these incentives, the energy storage system is often paid back in less than five years, cutting the payback time on a typical solar PV system by 50%.
Combined with California’s Solar Investment Tax Credit, the payback period is less than 24 months. This is what largely encourages the use of renewable energy resources in the state.
Hydrogen will play a major role in the global focus on achieving carbon neutrality.
While still in its infancy, hydrogen generation behind the meter is seen by many as one of the most promising pathways to achieving carbon neutrality. New technologies from companies like Modern Electron largely avoid the legacy challenges associated with the transportation and storage of hydrogen.
At Modern Hydrogen, we are building the hydrogen grid of the future by leveraging the accessibility and reliability of our country’s existing natural gas distribution network. By generating clean hydrogen from natural gas behind the meter, Modern Hydrogen is enabling ready accessibility to clean fuels of the future – today.
This “Modern Hydrogen” technology decarbonizes natural gas and delivers clean hydrogen for building heating, process heating, power generation, and vehicle fueling without CO2 emissions. Modern Hydrogen technology is scalable because you only need to deploy it where you need hydrogen.