By Scott Laskey
When you choose to go solar, your relationship with PG&E will change. One of the biggest changes is that you’ll start getting an annual statement called a true-up bill. This bill summarizes your annual electricity charges and credits for each month and distills them into a single invoice.
For many property owners, the true-up bill is confusing to understand. In this article, we’ll outline what the true-up bill is, why it can be so high, and what you can do to decrease or eliminate yours.
A true-up bill is a statement PG&E sends you at the end of each solar billing cycle. Since most solar billing cycles are 12 months long, you’ll generally receive your first true-up statement at the end of your first complete year as a solar customer.
A true-up energy statement from PG&E will cover:
To put this another way, the true-up bill collects and reconciles your annual, cumulative energy charges, credits and any net generation compensation you may be entitled to receive for the billing cycle.
If, after the utility provider reconciles your credits, you still have a balance due, the true-up statement will reflect that.
It will also reset remaining credits to zero or roll them over into your next solar billing cycle, depending on your utility agreement.
If your most recent true-up statement was unexpectedly high, there are a few potential causes to consider:
Your solar installer should build these costs into their initial feasibility analysis to avoid any surprises. That said, it is not unusual for these charges to catch homeowners off guard when they see them in aggregate after a full year has passed.
Utility providers will charge customers fees for maintaining a connection to the energy grid. These charges will be billed on a monthly basis on your traditional PG&E billing statement. These monthly charges will be summarized on your annual true-up statement.
In addition to certain customer and meter fees, customers are responsible for paying non-bypassable charges per kilowatt hour (kWh) that amount to somewhere between 2 to 3 cents per kWh. These non-bypassable charges go toward funding things like energy efficiency, low-income customer assistance, and nuclear decommissioning.
It is common for homeowners who have recently had solar installed at their home to inadvertently increase their electricity usage. It is important to resist the temptation to change one’s energy use habits after solar is installed.
Utility companies require homeowners to target a system size for their solar PV system that would offset not more than the previous 12-months of electricity use. If a homeowner is a bit more liberal with their electricity usage after having gone solar they may be surprised by a larger-than-expected true-up bill.
If your true-up bill is too high, there are ways to reduce it – primarily by retrofitting your existing solar system.
Here are two of the best options:
If you have a larger than expected true-up bill you are not producing enough electricity to maximize you savings. Consider working with a solar energy sales consultant to evaluate the amount of additional solar your home might need in order to offset the remaining usage currently being supplied by the utility grid.
Solar panels alone are a great way to produce power for your home and reduce your carbon footprint, but when combined with batteries you create a system capable of delivering power when it is most valuable, day or night.
This combination creates a functional, dynamic system that notably improves energy security by delivering power during utility power outages.
The method is simple:
The battery stores the excess power your panels produce. The stored energy then supplies your home with electricity after the sun goes down. The system controls can be programed to prioritize energy delivery during evening peak hours when electricity is the most expensive allowing homeowners to avoid high time-of-use charges.
During peak hours (defined as 4 pm-9 pm as of this year), PG&E charges much higher rates. When you have solar panels combined with an Energy Storage System your property can draw from your stored energy during peak hours, rather than paying high Time-of-Use prices.
Sandbar Solar & Electric serves as a leading solar + energy storage provider for San Francisco Bay Area homes and businesses. We recently demonstrated our commitment to reliable energy by installing our own microgrid.
If you’re looking for a way to decrease your annual true-up bill or break free from PG&E’s grid entirely, contact us today. We’ll help you understand how retrofitting your system can help you save money in the long term, not to mention decrease your carbon footprint.
Scott is the founder of Sandbar Solar & Electric. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from UC San Diego, Scott has an NABCEP certification, and has lectured on and taught many high-tech construction practices and solar PV technical concepts to education institutions, including Stanford University and state-recognized electrician apprenticeship programs. Scott enjoys sharing his knowledge of the evolving renewable energy space and making a difference in his community.
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