A concept familiar to electric industry people is what is in front of the meter and what is behind the meter. As the electric consumer becomes a more active participant in electricity managing and buying, it is worth having a basic definition of the concept in mind.

A customer sitting at home or in a business is behind the meter (BTM). That electric meter is the electric front door. Behind the meter; inside the door. The electricity, and the system to make and deliver that electricity, is in front of the meter until it goes through that meter.

Or here’s a basic way to look at it. An electric provider brings electricity to your meter to use; an energy system in or on the building is behind that meter.

The kinds of things in front of the meter: Utility generation plants, Distributed Energy Resources (large-scale solar or wind, for example) that feed into the grid, transmission and distribution lines to homes and businesses, and importantly, all the coordination to generate and distribute electricity. These are operated by electric providers. Also in front of the meter: Regulations from various government agencies.

The kind of things BTM: Small energy generation systems (think rooftop solar or wind), small energy storage systems, control systems to manage energy, and generators for emergency use. These are systems not owned by the electric provider and are intended for on-site use. (Well, kind of. Selling back excess BTM power is possible in some areas, but there are rules.)

Also BTM: No state or federal regulation. There can be homeowner (HOA) rules or other restrictions on a local level.

As you become an electric user who becomes more active in energy choices, it is worth knowing this basic definition of what is in front of, and behind, the meter.