homebehind the meter and in front of the meter

Understanding "Behind the Meter" and "In Front of the Meter" in the Utilities Sector: A Comprehensive Overview

Pieter D’haen.png
By Pieter D’haen
17 July 2023

Generation & Storage

Meet our SSE Energy Solutions experts

FTM & BTM.png
Behind the Meter & In Front of the Meter

The utilities sector plays a vital role in supplying essential services to homes, businesses, and industries. As the industry evolves, new terms and concepts emerge, such as "Behind the Meter" (BTM) and "In Front of the Meter" (FTM). These terms refer to the different points at which energy generation, consumption, and management occur within the grid system. In this blog, we will delve into what is meant by "Behind the Meter" and "In Front of the Meter" in the utilities sector, why both concepts exist, and the benefits they offer.

Behind the Meter (BTM)

Behind the Meter (BTM):

The term "Behind the Meter" refers to energy-related activities that occur on the consumer's side, typically within or close to their premises. It involves the generation, consumption, storage, and management of energy using various distributed energy resources (DERs) located on-site. These resources can include solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, fuel cells, and even small-scale cogeneration systems.

  1. Distributed Energy Generation or Distributed Energy: BTM systems enable consumers to generate electricity on their own premises, reducing dependence on traditional utility providers. Solar panels and wind turbines are common examples of BTM generation systems. These installations allow individuals and businesses to generate clean energy, lower their carbon footprint, and potentially save on energy bills.
  2. Energy Storage: BTM solutions often involve energy storage systems, such as batteries, which allow users to store excess electricity for later use. By capturing surplus energy during low demand periods, batteries can help consumers offset peak demand costs and improve grid stability. Additionally, in regions with unreliable power grids, BTM storage systems provide backup power during outages. This is getting considerable focus in emerging markets such as Data Centres where disruption to energy supply is so damaging.
  3. Energy Conversion: instead of traditional batteries storing electricity, new options use surplus onsite electricity to generate and store energy in alternate forms such as hydrogen or heat. With many industrial processes requiring anything from low grade heat to high temperature steam, this type of storage has three benefits: it removes the need for grid export capacity, which can be constrained in many regions; it allows for much longer energy storage, months if needed, increasing the ability to smooth out intermittent generation; it decarbonises heat generation for consumers, which currently relies almost exclusively on gas.
  4. Energy Management: Behind the Meter solutions enable consumers to have greater control over their energy usage. Advanced energy management systems and smart grid technologies provide real-time data on energy consumption, enabling consumers to make informed decisions about their energy usage. This data-driven approach can lead to more efficient energy consumption patterns, cost savings, and increased energy resilience, as well as offering a means of commercial gain through energy trading back to the grid.
In Front of the Meter (FTM)

In Front of the Meter (FTM):

The term "In Front of the Meter" refers to energy-related activities that occur on the utility side of the grid, typically involving large-scale energy generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure. These activities are primarily managed by utility companies and are designed to meet the energy demand of a wide range of consumers.

  1. Centralised Power Generation: FTM systems involve large-scale power plants that generate electricity from conventional sources such as coal, natural gas, nuclear energy, or renewable sources like hydroelectric, geothermal, and wind power. These power plants produce electricity in bulk, which is then distributed to consumers through the grid.
  2. Grid Infrastructure and Transmission: FTM systems rely on extensive grid infrastructure, including transmission lines, substations, and distribution networks, to transport electricity over long distances. This infrastructure ensures reliable and efficient delivery of electricity from power plants to end consumers.
  3. Demand Management and Load Balancing: Utilities play a crucial role in managing energy demand and maintaining grid stability. They monitor and manage the overall energy supply-demand balance, adjusting generation capacity as needed. FTM systems allow utilities to optimise the use of diverse energy resources and ensure a stable electricity supply across the grid.

Why Both Concepts Exist:


The existence of both BTM and FTM concepts in the utilities sector is a result of the evolving energy landscape, growing consumer demand for sustainable solutions, and advancements in technology. While FTM systems have been the traditional model for energy generation and distribution, BTM solutions have gained popularity due to several compelling benefits.

Benefits of Behind the Meter (BTM) Solutions:

  1. Decentralised Energy Generation: BTM systems promote decentralised energy generation, reducing the reliance on centralised power plants and transmission infrastructure. An added benefit is that the electricity system becomes more efficient because transmission and distribution losses, which are around 10% in the UK electricity system, are avoided.
  2. Increased Energy Independence: BTM solutions empower consumers to take control of their energy production, leading to increased energy independence. By generating their own electricity, consumers can reduce their exposure to fluctuating energy prices and enhance their energy security.
  3. Environmental Sustainability: BTM solutions, particularly those leveraging renewable energy sources, contribute to a more sustainable energy future. By reducing reliance on fossil fuel-based electricity, BTM systems help lower carbon emissions, mitigate climate change, and promote a cleaner environment.
  4. Cost Savings: Through BTM systems, consumers have the potential to reduce their energy costs over the long term. By generating their own energy, storing energy during low-demand periods, and managing their consumption more efficiently, consumers can lower their reliance on grid-supplied electricity and potentially save on utility bills.

Understanding the concepts of "Behind the Meter" (BTM) and "In Front of the Meter" (FTM) is crucial in comprehending the dynamics of the utilities sector. While FTM systems have traditionally dominated the industry, the rise of BTM solutions has introduced new possibilities for energy generation, consumption, and management. Both concepts coexist to meet the diverse needs of consumers and to address the challenges of a changing energy landscape. By embracing BTM solutions, consumers can enjoy benefits such as increased energy independence, reduced carbon footprint, and potential cost savings, while utilities continue to play a vital role in ensuring grid stability and meeting the overall energy demand. Ultimately, a harmonious integration of BTM and FTM systems can pave the way for a sustainable and resilient energy future.

Expanding on the concepts of "Behind the Meter" (BTM) and "In Front of the Meter" (FTM), let's explore specific examples of when BTM solutions are used in practice across different sectors.

Residential Sector:

Residential Sector:
  1. Rooftop Solar Panels: One of the most common BTM applications in the residential sector is the installation of rooftop solar panels. Homeowners can generate their own electricity by harnessing solar energy. The excess energy produced can be stored in batteries or fed back into the grid through net metering arrangements. This allows homeowners to offset their energy consumption from the grid, reduce their reliance on utility-supplied electricity, and potentially lower their electricity bills.
  2. Residential Energy Storage: Residential energy storage systems, such as home batteries, are another example of BTM solutions. These batteries allow homeowners to store excess energy generated from renewable sources, such as solar panels, for later use. During peak demand periods or in the event of a power outage, homeowners can rely on stored energy to power their homes, increasing energy resilience and reducing reliance on the grid.

Commercial and Industrial Sector:

Commercial and Industrial Sector:
  1. Commercial Solar Installations: Many businesses and industries are adopting BTM solar installations to reduce their energy costs and carbon footprint. Large commercial buildings often have vast rooftop spaces that can accommodate significant solar panel arrays. By generating electricity on-site, businesses can offset a portion of their energy consumption, lower their operational expenses, and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and net zero targets.
  2. Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Systems: BTM applications also include the implementation of combined heat and power (CHP) systems, also known as cogeneration. CHP systems simultaneously produce electricity and utilise the waste heat generated for heating or cooling purposes within a facility. This highly efficient approach reduces energy waste, lowers greenhouse gas emissions, and provides businesses with greater energy independence.

Community Solar Projects:

Community solar projects involve multiple participants sharing the benefits of a solar installation located off-site. This allows individuals who are unable to install solar panels on their own property, such as renters or those with shaded roofs, to access renewable energy. By subscribing to a community solar project, participants receive credits or reduced electricity bills based on their share of the solar generation, effectively participating in BTM generation without physical installation on their premises.


Microgrids are localised energy systems that can operate independently or in conjunction with the main utility grid. They often incorporate various BTM resources, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and energy storage, to provide reliable power to a specific community or facility. Microgrids are particularly useful in remote areas, critical facilities like hospitals or military bases, or during natural disasters when the main grid may be compromised. By incorporating BTM elements, microgrids enhance energy security, resilience, and the ability to manage energy demand effectively. BTM solutions offer practical and sustainable alternatives within the utilities sector. From residential rooftop solar installations to commercial energy storage and community solar projects, these applications provide individuals, businesses, and communities with greater control over their energy production, consumption, and management. As technology continues to advance and the demand for renewable energy grows, BTM solutions will play an increasingly vital role in shaping a decentralised, efficient, and environmentally friendly energy landscape.