Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has more solar customers than any other utility in the nation. When you have a two-way meter installed on your solar system, your system is connected to the electricity grid. When you produce excess power, that energy is sent back to the grid, and when your system isn’t producing enough energy, electricity will flow from the grid to your home. The excess energy you produce in some months can help offset the energy you need in other months, helping you to reduce your energy bill. At the end of each month, you’ll receive your usual utility bill, as well as a net metering statement that explains your charges and credits for the year so far.
PG&E services the state of California from as far south as Bakersfield to just below the Oregon border, servicing over 5 million households. PG&E offers net metering to almost all of their customers, with a few exceptions. There are a few areas in San Francisco and Oakland that do not qualify for net metering. A few other disqualifications can be read here.
Compensation for excess energy changes depending on state regulations. The price is set by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and usually the energy is priced at $0.03-$0.04 per kilowatt hour (kWh).
PG&E offers two types of payment plans for all customers. First, they have a Tiered Rate Plan. Your price per kilowatt stays the same in the first and lowest priced tier until you reach your Baseline Allowance. The Baseline Allowance is determined based on where you live and what the season is (summer or winter). The price of energy only goes up when you pass your Baseline Allowance of energy, which is when you enter the second tier. The second tier covers up to 400% of your Baseline Allowance, and after that, you are charged a high usage surcharge.
PG&E also offers Time-of-Use (TOU) plans, which charge for energy usage depending on the time of day. Energy is more expensive during peak demand hours, which is explained by the graphs listed here. Under Net Metering 2.0, new solar customers between now and 2019 will automatically be enrolled in a TOU plan, so that the cost of electricity is highest at times of high demand, like early evening. Electricity you send back to the grid at this time will also be worth more.
The system capacity limit for net metering with PG&E is 1 megawatt. The aggregate capacity limit is 5% of the utility's aggregate customer peak demand. These caps are true for all three investor-owned utilities in California, which includes PG&E as well as San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison.
The two other investor-owned utilities in California have to abide by the same regulations for caps and rates that PG&E does, so economically the three net metering options are very similar. All three offer similar rates through their TOU rate plans, but San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison do charge an interconnection fee.
Each month, your bill subtracts the energy you used from the energy you produced and gives you a net credit or charge. You can use credits to pay for charges in other months. At the end of one year, or 12 months after you start net metering, you will receive a “True-Up” statement that explains all your credits and charges in the past year. If you have a balance remaining, the bill will explain the charge, and if you have credit remaining, you owe nothing to the utility company. The statement will also tell you if you qualify for net surplus compensation, if you generated more energy than you consumed in the 12 month period. In this case, the utility will pay you in way you indicate when you enroll in the program.
PG&E offers two incentives to help bring down the cost of solar panels for your home. First, the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing program (MASH) helps provide solar panels to multi-family, low-income homes. Second, the New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP) helps finance solar panels for new, energy-efficient homes. PG&E also offers other incentives for solar water heating and other renewable energy sources.
PG&E offers an interactive tool online to help process your interconnection application. Before applying for interconnection, you need to complete application forms, choose a rate schedule, and pick the right system size with your contractor. The main contract you need to sign is called Agreement and Customer Authorization (A∓A), which gives your contractor your permission to submit the interconnection application on your behalf. To figure out how large of a solar system you need for your home, PG&E offers a solar calculator to help you gauge how big of a solar system you need. With PG∓E, there is no interconnection fee unless you need a system upgrade. Your contractor can help you determine if your system is ready for net metering. Once you’ve submitted the appropriate paperwork, you need to wait for a Permission to Operate (PTO) letter from the utility. Once you receive this letter, you can turn on your solar system.
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