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De-mystifying your PG&E Solar Power Bill

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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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SolarinSonora

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

Not PG&E
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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
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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 »

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