If you have been thinking about getting a solar power system for your home, you’ve probably wondered how much money you could save each month. Fortunately, there’s a pretty simple way for PG&E customers to find out. By reading through the monthly statements of your PG&E electricity plan, you can find out exactly how much electricity you’re using and when you’re using it.
Whether you’re paying a flat rate or time-of-use rates, your bill will have the hard numbers you need to plan for a solar power system that meets your energy needs.
The benefits of a solar system change based on the PG&E electricity plan you are under.
The first step to understanding how much money solar could be saving you is to understand your billing plan. For non-solar residential customers, PG&E has long offered tiered-rate plans, but is currently working to transition as many customers as possible to time-of-use rate plans. For business customers, PG&E offers specialized Time-of-Use and Peak Day plans.
Tiered-rate plans are based around two tiers of electricity use. Tier 1 is for customers who use up to 100% of their “Baseline Allowance” of energy. Tier 2 is for customers whose energy use falls between 101% and 400% of their Baseline Allowance. Customers who go over 400% face a high usage surcharge.
Your Baseline Allowance is your home’s allotment of electricity available at the lowest price. The allowance changes based on where you live, what is used as your heating source, and whether it’s currently summer or winter.
Three time-of-use rate plans are also available from PG&E for residential customers. These plans designate five hours of the day as “peak hours,” times during which electricity costs more due to the high demand. The idea behind these plans is that customers are encouraged to shift their energy usage to non-peak hours to cut their costs.
Two of these plans focus on Monday through Friday of each week. The first sets 3PM to 8PM as peak hours, and also comes with a Baseline Allowance. The second weekday plan shifts peak hours later to 4PM to 9PM, and there is no Baseline Allowance. Finally, there is the Everyday Time-of-Use plan, which sets the hours of 4PM to 9PM as peak hours every day of the year.
Time-of-use plans for small and medium-sized businesses change between summer and winter rates. As of September 2019, summer rates are in effect from May to October, while winter rates are between November and April. There are also rate plans specific to agricultural customers, using the same months for summer and winter rates.
Time-of-use plans are a little more complicated for business customers. During the summer rates, power is organized into three rate periods: off-peak, partial peak, and peak. During the winter, there is only off-peak, and partial peak. But this changes with agricultural customers, with summer only having on and off-peak periods, and winter having off-peak and partial peak.
Each of these time-of-use plans charges their own rates per kWh of electricity consumed.
Peak day pricing provides a discount on regular summer electricity rates for businesses. But in exchange, they are charged higher prices during specified “Event Days” throughout the year, which are dates on which particularly high usage is anticipated. Customers under this plan will have anywhere between 9 and 15 event days per year.
On this plan the summer and winter rates and peak hours are set up similarly to the standard business time-of-use plans. But on Event Days, from 2PM to 6PM, a surcharge is added for each kWh used.
How does your statement help you determine how much you could be saving under solar power?
Regardless of your rate plan, every bill PG&E sends has a section that charts your electricity use over the course of the billing period, while also spelling out the rates you are paying.
For gas and electric, electric-only, and agriculture energy customers, page 3 of your statement shows the charts you’re looking for. In addition to breaking down your energy use throughout the billing period, this page also shows you your rate and the various additional charges you may have paid during this time. For time-of-use customers, these charts are even more detailed, as they will show you when your energy use occurred during peak hours.
Keep in mind that in addition to your use of electricity at the current energy rates, there are other monthly charges. This can include taxes enforced by state and local governments, grid access charges, and so on.
By compiling a series of bills, you can see what your energy usage looks like on a month-to-month basis. By analyzing this information, you can not only tell if your current rate plan is right for your current usage, you can use that data to help determine how large of a solar power system you need. A well-planned and properly implemented solar system can help take the bite out of the peak hour charges you face under time-of-use plans. Capital City Solar’s service representatives can also help you analyze this information and determine the extent of your solar power needs.
You can potentially offset your peak hour costs completely, or opt to reduce your tiered pricing costs with a solar power system.
As an example, let’s say that you’re on a time-of-use plan where your peak hours are set to 3PM to 8PM, and you get home from work around 5:30 to 6PM. Your electricity use is going to start in the middle of peak billing hours.
But with a solar system, you’ve been generating electricity throughout the day, which is being returned to the grid. Solar customers gain energy credits that are shown in their monthly net energy metering statements.
Under net energy metering, any electricity your solar power system generates that you aren’t using is sent into the local utility grid, and is credited to your account. On days where your energy use is minimized, but the system is still generating power, the energy credit you’re building up can offset later expenses considerably. Additionally, there are days where you don’t use as much power at home, like if you’re out on vacation. Your solar system will still be generating power, generating energy credits, and helping offset your energy costs later down the line.
Keep in mind that the benefits of going solar will grow as energy rates increase over time.
In 2018, PG&E officially submitted its 2020 General Rate Case to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The utility has asked for a $1.1 billion revenue increase to fund enhancements to gas and electric safety in the face of lengthening wildfire seasons. This translates to an average rate increase of 6.4% for residential customers. PG&E makes such proposals every three years, and it’s a safe bet to assume that energy rates will see regular increases over time. The sooner you get solar power for your home, the sooner you can start to get ahead of these rate increases.
Solar power offers great benefits for PG&E customers, and the billing statements can help illustrate just how significant the savings can be. If you’re thinking about getting a solar system installed, but you’re not sure how much you could be saving, take a look at your monthly statements. We can also develop a custom cost-savings estimate for your home. If you’re ready to get your house assessed for a solar power system, contact Capital City Solar today!