New solar panels on your home mean new electricity bills

Francisco CastroApril 4, 20195730

If you’ve recently had a solar panel system installation in your home, you’ll probably start noticing the savings right away.

Depending on their solar power system, many consumers see their electric bills reduced to a few dollars a month. That and the peace of mind they are also doing their part for the environment by tapping into this source of renewable energy.

New panels mean new electricity bills

But having a solar house doesn’t mean you will no longer get a monthly bill from you utility company. Your solar power system is still connected to the electric grid, sending it excess power when your don’t need all the output, and receiving it when the performance dips.

PG &E and other utilities recommend solar homes owners familiarize themselves with the monthly bills they’ll continue to receive, as well as the annual True-Up statement.

Monthly Bills

Having solar panels on your roof doesn’t mean you will no longer have a monthly bill. Utility employees will still come by every month to do a reading at your home. 

The monthly bills will show the minimum delivery charges and other fees. “The statement also tells you how you are tracking towards your True-Up in your "Solar True-Up Tracking," box and has a snapshot of your current and year-to-date charges and credits,” PG & E explains on its website. 

“Your monthly bill will include each month’s non-energy charges, which include such items as your utility taxes and city and county fees. These charges are due and payable each month, and although minimal, your payment for these charges must be made monthly,” indicates Southern California Edison.

Remember also Net Energy Metering (NEM). NEM allows customers who generate their own energy ("customer-generators") to serve their energy needs directly onsite and to receive a financial credit on their electric bills for any surplus energy fed back to their utility.  According to the California Public Utilities Commission, “more than 90% of all megawatts (MW) of customer-sited solar capacity interconnected to the grid in the three large investor-owned (IOU) territories (PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E, San Diego Gas & Electric) in California are on NEM tariffs.”

On the day your utility gives your solar power system “Permission to Operate” (PTO), your billing will shift to this process, whereby you will either be selling the surplus electricity your solar panels produce or purchasing it from the grid. 

True-Up Statement

“After 12 months, your monthly net energy charges and credits are reconciled in an annual True-Up statement.. If you have a balance due after all charges and credits are reconciled, that amount will appear on the last PG&E bill of your 12-month billing cycle. Any remaining charges must be paid and any excess surpluses are typically reset to zero,” adds PG & E.

The statement will also include a ‘summary of NEM [net energy metering] charges,’ describing the amount of energy used for each tier of your provider’s time-of-use pricing schedule, total usage for each month, taxes owed for each month, and year-end total for each of these figures.

Experts note that you should expect a big bill, often above $1,000 dollars. So don’t be discouraged or surprised. In the off-chance you sold the utility more power than you took from them, you might also get a check, but usually it’s very small. The reason for this is that the rate they purchase electricity from a utility is much higher than the rate the utility gives them for the solar energy they produce.

They further explain that several factors can affect your True-Up bill. “Changes in your household or lifestyle, such as adding another person to the household, acquiring large new appliances, buying an electric car or installing a pool, may result in higher energy usage,” they state.

Also, at True-Up you may be entitled to compensation for surplus energy generated by your solar power system. 

“The rate is set by California Public Utilities Commission at approximately two to four cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh)… you do not need to take any action to receive compensation. PG&E will determine your eligibility automatically at the end of each True-Up billing cycle and calculate any amount owed to you on the True-Up Statement.”

If the amount of money you owe on your True-Up Statement is way more than you anticipated, chances are your home solar energy panels are not working properly or are insufficient for your needs. 

To avoid this problem, monitor your electricity production and usage constantly to see any deficiencies or problems. If you purchased more electricity than your produced with your home solar energy panels, your bill will be higher.

Also, after the installation of your solar system is completed, make sure the solar panel installer walks you through the operation of the system thoroughly. That way you can visually check that it is working and what to look for if any problems arise.

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