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De-mystifying your PG&E Solar Power Bill

Avatar for Dave Llorens
Published on 10/25/2007 in
Updated 07/24/2018

Meter bidirectional

If you’re a PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) customer, that blue-bordered power bill you get is complicated enough to understand as it is, right? Well, consider you take a bold green step forward and install a solar power system on your house. Unfortunately, that bill now gets even more complicated. Don’t distress though, we’re here to sort out this mess and hopefully save you a lot of money. What follows is a case study of two very close friends of mine (and PG&E customers) that just so happen to have solar panels on their roof (below). I guess you could consider their dog a “third” friend of mine since my leg has seen a lot of attention whenever I’m over there. Gross.

Dana Solar Panels on friend's house

Lets dig in to all that PG&E solar nitty gritty!

When my friend’s system was installed on their house, PG&E sent them an interconnection agreement. On this agreement, they decided whether they wanted to get on the E1 or E7 rate plan.

  • If you choose E1, the power PG&E delivers will cost you the same amount – all
    the time. PG&E also credits you for the power you produce, at an equal rate of what they charge for it.
  • If you opt for E7, the time you use (TOU) your energy determines pricing. PG&E will charge you more during peak hours and less during off-peak hours.
    • E7 requires a special TOU meter to split out peak and non-peak usage. My friend’s solar system was installed with a bidirectional meter (see pic), though it wasn’t a TOU bi-directional meter. PG&E wanted to charge them $277 for installation of one. So, make sure when you’re having your system installed that you’re in line to receive one if you plan on going TOU.
    • Since “peak hours” are 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM and the sun shines pretty brightly around that time, my guess is PG&E is trying to make it difficult to stick with the E7 TOU rates. But stick with those rates! That’s when your solar system is most efficient and making money for you if you’ve got your system sized right! The E7 TOU rates are first come first serve, and limited. PGE power is about 4 times as expensive from noon to six. But here’s the rub… PG& had 5000 E7 slots available this year, and the year is almost over and the woman on the phone told me they haven’t even used half of of those.
    • If you produce more in a year than you use, you don’t get a check for that power unless you have signed a contract to sell electricity to PG&E. This isn’t an issue for my friends because their system is relatively and they consume more than they produce.

So what does their bill look like?

Well, before the solar system, they got a blue bordered bill (Energy Statement – called the Blue Bill, on the left). This bill had gas and electric charges and it came due monthly. So after the install, they now get two bills. They get the original Blue Bill which has normal gas charges as usual, but the electric has been replaced by a base electric charge which is anywhere from $4-$8 dollars, with their power consumption and production layed out in the second bill. This second bill is called the NEM (Net Energy Metering, on the right) bill. They can opt to pay this bill at the end of the year. That way, if some months are negative and some are positive, they can reconcile it all at the end (called the “true up” period). Their bills are mostly positive since they have a small solar system and run some power hungry servers, so they pay a big chunk at the end of the year (which is nice, you get to hold onto your money longer). If you are new to this whole idea of “net-metering”, check out our previous post net metering. That should clear things up.

So, what are the rates?

Well, their baseline rates are 29.3 cents per kWh for Peak Hours and 8.66 cents per kWh for Off-Peak Hours. WOW. Big difference, right? Again, if you use a lot of electricity between the hours of 12:00-6:00pm, make sure you’re utilizing your solar system to save you money and stick with that E7 rate plan. The PG&E rating system is excruciatingly difficult to read and understand. Check out the PG&E tariff page. I downloaded the E1, E7, and NEM rates as well. The purpose of us being here is so we can help you decipher all of this.

As you use more power, the price goes up.

These plans operate on tiers, which are related to a baseline. The baseline is the power PG&E expects you to use as a house, and it’s pretty conservative. If you run servers or a hot tub, you’re probably going to go over it. Once you go over, power costs more:

Total Energy Rates
SummerPEAKOFF-PEAK
Baseline Usage$0.29372$0.08664
101% – 130% of Baseline$0.29372$0.08664
131% – 200% of Baseline$0.39105$0.18397
201% – 300% of Baseline$0.48102$0.27394
Over 300% of Baseline$0.52817$0.32109
Winter  
Baseline Usage$0.11472$0.08966
$0.30202$0.11472$0.08966
131% – 200% of Baseline$0.21205$0.18699
201% – 300% of Baseline$0.30202$0.27696
Over 300% of Baseline$0.34917$0.32411

So, how much are they saving?

Because you can only see the net power consumption (not how much they produce and how much they use) I have to estimate based on looking at all their power bills and knowing their lifestyle, which is no problem because I’m over there playing Halo III all the time anyway. Because the solar system they have is rockin in full gear at the same time power is costing about 4 times a much as it does during the non-peak hours…. They’re saving a lot. I won’t get into the math but it looks like about $1200-ish a year.

Here is more information about California solar power energy rebates

ASK US QUESTIONS!

I understand this is confusing, so if you have questions, ask them in the comments, I’ll CALL PG&E, and I’ll update the post.

Cheers! – Dave

Last modified: July 24, 2018

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Tony MaciasLarry McAndrewBrianBen ZientaraSteve C Recent comment authors
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Tony Macias
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Tony Macias

My PG&E electrical usage is peeked at 6-11 PM. Two plasma TVs usually going along with a receiver and other AV components. If I get Solar and am on the E6 TOU plan, will the extra energy produced (and not used) during the PG&E 12-6 PM peek hours, offset my household usage from 6-11 PM, reducing my overall usage for the day? I am trying to understand if PG&E equally credits Solar production against PG&E supplied electricity.

Larry McAndrew
Guest
Larry McAndrew

Enphase provides me with a statement of net use that has my consumption, per 15minutes, as a separate column. I am looking for a simulation application I can feed that data into and see what my bill would have been without the solar’s offset.

Brian
Guest
Brian

We have had solar now for three years and our pg&e bill is about $20 a month which is great. However every year we get billed another roughly $2,000! If they are charging us for going over every month then why this huge settle up at the end of the year?

Steve C
Guest
Steve C

Dave, Thanks for this article. We’re on E6 now, and even though comments say it’s not as good as E7 was, it’s the closest I could get, and it does seem to mirror our peak usage patterns. My question is this: When PG&E credits me for the extra electricity generated during those peak times, at what rate are they crediting me? Is it at the retail rates at those peak times? I.e. the highest rate from 1p-7p? Like 34-52 cents depending on which Tier I’m in at the time? This was what I was told by one of the solar… Read more »

Ben Zientara
Admin

Hi Steve, thanks for writing! PG&E’s Rate E6 Time-of-Use (ToU) billing plan is great for solar, because your panels are producing the most electricity when the cost is highest. That means you’re avoiding paying for electricity at those times when it’s 34-52 cents/kWh. In fact, you’re probably producing more than you can use, which is then credited to your account and offsets usage at other times. At the end of the month, if your panels produced more electricity than you used, that amount is recorded. As we understand it, if by the end of 12 months you produce more electricity… Read more »

Julie
Guest
Julie

Just got our True Up bill! Not our first, we’ve been solar for about 6 yrs now. SHOCKED!!! Our bill is almost triple of what it usually is. I don’t think our usage has changed drastically. It’s like I don’t even have solar….my main concern is that we were having to pull more power due to failing ‘neutral’ which pg&e eventually replaced, (promptly) when we figured out it was not an inside wiring issue. Plus a lot of our lighting is LED….I’m confused….per Hal’s our new dishwasher is consuming energy? We rarely used one before….I’m confused….we unplug most stuff, we… Read more »

SolarinSonora
Guest
SolarinSonora

Help! It looks like there is no benefit to being on a the TOU plan. All this looks like is a bait-and-switch rate hike. Here’s what we used to have with TOU E7 http://www.pge.com/tariffs/tm2/pdf/ELEC_SCHEDS_E-7.pdf Here’s the standard Tiered Base Plan link http://www.pge.com/en/myhome/saveenergymoney/plans/tiers/index.page Here’s the E6 TOU Plan info http://www.pge.com/sites/en/myhome/saveenergymoney/plans/tou/index.page

SolarinSonora
Guest
SolarinSonora

E6 Plan infohttp://www.pge.com/sites/en/myhome/saveenergymoney/plans/tou/index.page

Not PG&E
Guest
Not PG&E

The main difficulty with the removal of E7 is that the peak hours are shifted to times when the sun is not shining. That means less credit for generated power, because most of it will be off-peak. Expect to take a big hit.

CaliforniaKitty
Guest
CaliforniaKitty

I too just received the notice about them discontinuing the E7 plan. Now I’m trying to figure out if the E1, ETOU-A, E6 or ETOU-B plans will make the most sense for us in the long run. In 2015, we had a $300 credit on the E7 rate plan. I have been able to keep electricity down from 12-6 (while our solar is working better), but the new plans don’t seem to be as simple. It looks to me the E6 plan is the closest to what I already have, but would have preferred to start my heating/AC by 6:00… Read more »

Matthew
Guest
Matthew

PG&E are discontinuing E7 for residential, see: https://sonomacleanpower.org/e-7/ Without E-7 I’m just spending a lot of money and giving away the electricity produced by my solar system…

A. Mizany
Guest
A. Mizany

As I was saying, PGE charges me for delivery and also for MCE generation charges which I pay monthly. Then on the net metering bill they charge me for energy,which is accumulates for true up.I want to know, how they divide the electric charge between monthly and true up?

A. Mizany
Guest
A. Mizany

We have a PV system connected to PGE for net metering.AS you explained, they send me two bills each month. The blue bill, charges me each month for PGE Delivery charges

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

You are incorrect stating that if you’re on E1 your cost of electricity delivered is the same all the time. To the contrary, each billing cycle you run through your basline quantity, then jump to tier 2, tier 3, and finally tier 4 if you use enough during the 30 day billing cycle. The price for each of these tiers is different, not the same. Your statement is misleading and inaccurate.

yoga
Guest
yoga

Thank you
Britni

robert okeefe
Guest
robert okeefe

Installed 12kw/ 62 panels @ 200w ea. in
2006. This is the first year 2013 to accomplish net giver status to the tune of 3,336kwh/ credit of $1276.00 of which PG&E will pay $130.00.
Next year I plan on being cost neutral.

robert okeefe
Guest
robert okeefe

PG&E will not pay enough in credits to cover for the installation of solar panels over the life of the system. Here’s a simple one….don’t use big energy guzzlers (electric stove/ oven, dryer etc.) when the sun isn’t shining down on your panels, try not to use more than you are producing. … .don’t use 2 or more energy guzzlers at the same time. Get a separate solar system (off grid) for wells, swimming pools and anything outside.( it’ll cost about $10,000.00…. but it’s worth it. 0 bill year after year~ no headaches) Keep them clean and keep bird crap… Read more »

Dennis
Guest
Dennis

I just got my true up bill, or credit. I have TOU E7 and produce approx 8,000 KW per year for a gross savings of $2100 dollars. After fees etc,,,, my true up credit is only $238. After a very courteous exchange with a pge rep we came to the conclusion it did not pay me to “save” energy that we could have been using at the going rate vs being paid wholesale rate of 3 cents per KW. When we take into account what we were paying $370/month average and a wholesale saving of $20/month we come out $390/month… Read more »

Jake Beaton
Guest
Jake Beaton

When I go from E1 to E6 time of use what size sysytem do I need to build? 80% 85% 95%?

John
Guest
John

We have installed a 6kw DC solar system in Tucson AZ. Converting to AC this should be rated as a 5400 watt AC system.

The system will only prodece 5400 watts if the system is in perfect alignment with the sun. MY QUESTION: What can I expect from this system on average? I recognize production will be different in July than in January but what from experience do peopel actually get?
60%, 50% ???

adam
Guest
adam

Ok here’s an odd scenario potentially/ I’m on an E6 TOU meter (California) and will have a bill thats pretty close to $0 at the end of our first year (not including $12 monthly transmission/meter charges). I’m thinking of expanding the system because I like the idea of solar and I hear that I can get $$$ back for overproduction….BUT I have not really overproduced in terms of total KWH soooo what I think is adding panels will be an unwise choice financially. any ideas. FYI my system produced 8000KWH and I’m guessing we consumed 10,000kwh total.

Fred W
Guest
Fred W

PG&E has a document that explains how to allocate energy produced and used to the tier system. I haven’t worked through the example completely to understand how it works, but it seems complete. Here it is: http://www.pge.com/includes/docs/pdfs/shared/solar/solareducation/calculating_baseline.pdf

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

I am reading from different sources, you should clean,( not just hose down ) your panels regularly. Yes- No ?

Richard Wieckowicz
Guest
Richard Wieckowicz

Dave, It is important to realize that if you use a large amount of power during peak hours that solar isn’t going to be your magic solution. You will pay for that valuable peak use one way or the other. In very simple numbers with 1,000kwh of use at 50 cents peak, completely offset by a solar system, you have the alternative choice e.g. of shifting 600 kwh use from peak to off-peak and selling $300 of peak power to PG&E. You then will pay PG&E the much lower off-peak rates and pocket most of the $300. In other words… Read more »

Cassandra
Guest
Cassandra

ok i work for Acro Energy, i am actually an intern, i have some confusion about a few things like the True up bill at the end of the year, would you be able to find out how exactly that works? HELP

Bob
Guest
Bob

I plan to install a 3kwh photovoltaic system on my home. The system should produce around 15 kw each day during the peak time-of-use period (1-7pm). Will PG&E credit me at the peak Tier 1 rate (29 cents) for each kw produced during the peak period, or some other amount? And what will the credit amount be for kw hours produced during the part-peak hours and the off-peak hours?

matt
Guest
matt

We have a 5kw system in Soquel, CA. We’ve been up and running years but PB&E just installed the NEMeter last week. We are on E1 now and need to decide a swith to E6 or E7. Questions: since we’ve been approved and operating sine 5/07 do we have the E7 option still? We run a hot tub, a six hundred foot well and pressure pumps for out water system, and an an apartment above our gargage. Each month we’ve hit the 41cent/kw. Is E1 a better call. can we swith back to E1 if this doesn’t work in our… Read more »

M Light
Guest
M Light

We are in the process of installing a 5.5Kw system on our home in Aptos, CA. Our installer told us we’d need to whack down some ugly eucalyptus trees and that we could add the cost for Fed solar credits. Is this true?

BTW, your site was really “insightful”. Thanks, ML

think
Guest
think

i dont know what to do! we can no longer afford to pay $2000. a month for power there is only two of us and we are on a master meter (is that right or is it working agenst me?) I would love to go green but dont think i can afford to have it installed what can i do? please help!!!

JB Cockrell
Guest
JB Cockrell

I’m looking at installing a solar system that will also be tied to the grid. (PG&E)

What happens if my system produces more power than I use on an annual basis?

Eric
Guest
Eric

I am confused about one aspect of E6:
how much of baseline usage allowance
(12kw per day in my case) is assigned to
the off peak , partial peak, and peak times?
PG&E can’t answer this for me, but one
person at their solar office indicated it was divided into thirds–4kW per day for each
of the three periods. This would be a problem for me since I would end up in expensive tiers during the off peak period

Tom Jolly
Guest
Tom Jolly

Our house was not south-facing and we ending up with panels pointing pretty far to the west. The interesting result of this is we hit peak power around 2-3PM. Now I’m wondering if E7 people are better off with panels that AREN’T directly south facing, since you can get a better power return between 12-6 (peak usage) set up like I am.

R. Krinsky
Guest
R. Krinsky

Hi; We are about to install a Solar Voltaic system with 24 panels which the installer estimates will generate 3.7KWH he also tells us that PG&E keeps changing things like the rate plans. We live in Northern California and do not get as much sun as other areas. We may try to install another 12 panels depending on the engineers report regarding the roof. This is now the beginning of June 08. Can you tell us what the current rate plans are? We have also been told that we must get a TOU meter but that it will not cost… Read more »

Maureen
Guest
Maureen

We live in Humboldt county close to the ocean. We get a lot of fog and don’t have anywhere near the sun that we did in So CAL. We are ready to install solar because our PG and E bills are on a tiered system and are charged 30-34 cents Kw. once we reach the top two tiers. Because we are not sure how much electricity this solar system will generate, do you have any recommendations as to how we should go about selecting the rate plan?

Linda Agerbak
Guest
Linda Agerbak

I put in pv 2 years ago. Every day I go out and enjoy seeing the numbers going down on the meter. Perfect! I look forward to the day when people put in bigger, more efficient arrays, so that through their extra Kw, PG&E will pay them in effect for the installation.

Nelle
Guest
Nelle

Hi. My usuage is higher than what my solar system is generating. I generate about 100 kw per day on a clear day. I use in summer months between 5-6,000Kw in the summer with air conditioning and about 3,000 in the winter. I am on E-8 which I think is the correct plan due to usuage is higher in the summer. Is that correct? Also, I was told I would check monthly check’s for the power I am generating as a rebate for 5 years instead of one lump payment. Is that correct or does that just show up as… Read more »

Paul Hernday
Guest
Paul Hernday

Hi,

I like the idea of your website, as I am an activist too. But I can’t read it given the unfortunate choice of black background and type font. Also, I can’t make paper copies because it eats black ink.

Any chance you could lose the black?

Paul

Dave Bagshaw
Guest
Dave Bagshaw

I have a solar electric system on my house. I also have an electric hot tub and pool. I am on E1 because in the summer I have to run the pool pump to send water thru the pool solar collectors. Should I be on E7? Do you ever do consulting to help people decipher the bill and figure out whether E7 is better? Do you know anyone who does?

Thanks Dave B.

MHS
Guest
MHS

I have the same pool pump situation, but I am doing better on E-7. If you did not install enough solar capacity E1 might be better, but during the summer I am still selling power to PG&E on peak so E7 is worth it.
If you run your pool pump during they day in the winter E-6 might be worth it, but I have not checked.

Dan Hahn
Guest
Dan Hahn

Right Dave,

So, if you’re on vacation and you’re on the E7 rate plan, PG&E is crediting your account during noon-6pm using the PEAK rate schedule above?

David Llorens
Guest
David Llorens

Dan, You are credited for the power your produce at the same rate you are charged for it. So if you are producing net power, you’re getting credited…. If you’re using net power, you’re getting charged. If you go on vacation, PGE would be crediting your account more cash with E7 since the photovoltaic system is pumping out the most power during peak hours. You can’t “SELL” your power to PGE unless you setup a contract to sell solar credits with them. To most people this doesn’t matter because they will be net power consumers at the end of the… Read more »

Dan Hahn
Guest
Dan Hahn

Dave,

Let’s say you go on vacation and you’re on the E7 rate plan. Are you able to sell the peak power you produce back to PG&E for more than off-peak rates?

David Llorens
Guest
David Llorens

Aaron, What PGE is telling you doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The bottom line is that if you have a solar system of any type, you want to rock the PG&E time of use schedule (E7). The solar powered energy you’re producing is often worth four times as much as the non-peak hours, because peak hours are during the sunniest periods (For the moment, peak hours are noon-six).

Doesn’t matter if you have someone home during the day or not, the power you are produce with your system is constant, and that power is worth more if you use TOU.

Aaron Sal
Guest
Aaron Sal

We’re trying to decide now on which plan to use (the peak/off-peak or the standard rates plan). The PG+E person told me that if we’re having someone at home during the peak hours, we may be better off with the standard plan. Does that sound right? We have a 2.4kWp system installed. Does that matter? Or should we just go with the TOU plan? Thanks

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