PG&E ev program

How PG&E’s “EV” rate schedule benefits solar homeowners

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We have had the fortune of helping more than 50 electric vehicle owners go solar. As shared in prior posts, fueling your car with solar electricity is the least expensive form of (automotive) transport: Your amortized cost to generate solar electricity is ~8 cents per kWh, and you yield about four miles per kWh of electricity. Trite but true: Driving on sunshine makes sense.

Better yet, when you enjoy an electric vehicle you can employ PG&E’s “EV” rate schedule. This time-of-use rate program incents EV drivers to charge their car (and shift other electricity demand) to “off-peak” hours, namely 11 pm to 7 am, Monday through Friday, and all weekend/holiday hours, sans 3-7 pm.

Here are PG&E’s “EV” rates per kWh:

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  • Peak (2-9 pm, M-F): $0.33 (winter); $0.48 (summer)

  • Part Peak (7am-2pm; 9-11pm M-F): $0.20 (winter); $0.26 (summer)

  • Off Peak (11pm-7am M-F; weekends/holidays all hours except 3-7pm): $0.13

When your solar panels make more energy than your home uses, you are credited by PG&E via their net-metering program. Hence, the greater the delta (solar generation less household consumption) during “peak” periods, your monetary credits are amplified.

Generally, Repower homeowners who enroll in PG&E’s EV rate schedule only generate ~80% of the electricity they use to cover 100% of their electricity costs. This is simply due to the time-of-use rate schedule and the advantage of buying electricity at a low rate and getting credited at nearly 4x. Very cool.

With apologies for the bevy of metrics, let’s review an example. Below is the electricity use for a fairly standard Davis homeowner who charges their electric vehicle 12,000 miles per year at home.

Pre-solar electricity use and costs (on PG&E’s “E-1” program):

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We then sized and modeled a solar system to eliminate the homeowner’s electricity bill: A 4.8 kW, 15-panel system installed at 270-degree azimuth (due west), no shading. The solar panels are projected to generate 6,493 kWh in year one, thus covering 70% of the homeowner’s electricity use.

If the homeowner did not own an electric vehicle, they would (upon going solar) enroll in PG&E’s “TOU-A” rate schedule. Like the EV rate, TOU-A values electricity based on demand (“peak” period is 3-8 pm), but there’s little difference between peak and off-peak periods.

Solar economics under the default E-TOU (A) rate schedule:

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The homeowner’s year-end, true-up cost would be $645 — the solar system is too small. This is not bad, but …

… under the EV rate schedule, the homeowner generates significant time-of-generation credits/leverage. Their year-end bill would be $108.

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Simple but lucrative: The homeowner will save an additional $500 per year through the EV rate schedule. Contact us today with questions and/or if you’d like a free solar assessment.

Purchased a home and want to add solar panels? Five considerations to ponder

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This week, we have been engaged by three new homeowners to help them evaluate solar. Thereby, we begin with a simple, open-ended question: Why solar, why now? Responses vary, but generally their motive is twofold: Why not, since I just bought my home; and, PG&E’s rates are only going to go up. While we agree with the latter, we believe the former warrants consideration.

Before adding solar to your recently purchased home, here are five considerations:

1. The condition of your roof. Since new homebuyers have recently had their roof inspected, they have an objective evaluation regarding the condition and remaining life of their roof. In simple terms, if your roof has less than 10 years of remaining/warrantied life, you do not want to install solar (on such roof planes); if your roof has 10+ years, you’re in good shape.

2. Historical/future electricity use. Since new homeowners have limited (or zero) electricity use data, we recommend one of four approaches (to forecast future use and accurately size and model their prospective solar system):

  • Live in your home for 12 months and, thereby, quantify how much electricity you will use.

  • Wait until you have occupied your home for six months -- particularly 1-2 months of summer use, when electricity demand peaks. (Thereby, we can model 12 months of electricity demand based on your use pattern and comparable homes).

  • Employ comparable homes’ electricity use (based on their vintage, neighborhood, size, occupancy, etcetera) to model your home’s future electricity use. Fortunately, we have several hundred data sets — electricity use patterns for homes in all neighborhoods in our community — to approximate future use.

  • If it’s not too late, request 12 months of PG&E data from the home seller. Oftentimes, this is a futile effort, but it’s worth trying.

3. Home improvements. Stating the obvious: Many new homeowners improve their homes. Adding a pool and/or hot tub will increase your electricity use, as would replacing your furnace with an electric heat pump (an increasingly common practice for Repower homeowners). Conversely, replacing windows, adding insulation, or installing a variable speed pool pump reduces your electricity use. In all cases, we model the impact vis-a-vis solar system sizing.

4. Electric vehicle. If you own — or intend to purchase, in the next 12-24 months — an eV, you’d  want to factor future charging of your car into the sizing of your solar system. We find that eVs travel 4 miles per kWh of electricity. The math is simple: Take the number of miles/year you anticipate driving and multiply it by the percentage of charging you believe will be done at home (versus your workplace, public chargers, etc.). Then, divide the number by 4 to quantify additional electricity use (in kWh). For example, if you intend to drive 10,000 miles per year and charge your car 80% of the time at home (fueling 8,000 miles), you will consume 2,000 kWh of electricity.

5. Your electrical panel. Though adding solar does not increase your electrical demand, we need to ensure your electrical panel has sufficient capacity (or space) to accommodate the solar inverter. Furthermore, we will evaluate non-solar changes to your electrical demand — car charger, spa, swimming pool, heat pump, etcetera — to determine your panel’s amenability. (We perform load calculations and review your future electricity use with the city or county to ensure solar will work.)

 Net-net, going solar is simple, but there are a few nuances worthy of consideration … particularly if you recently purchased a home. Feel free to contact us to learn more and receive a free solar assessment.

PG&E just raised its rates (again!); what’s going on and what can I do?

Effective March 1, PG&E condensed the tiers of its E-1 residential rate schedule (the tariff most homeowners employ). And, again, electricity rates went up, this time by ~8%. What’s the story and what can I do, if anything?

First, a little background. Every few years, PG&E submits a three-year budget to the California Public Utilities Corp (CPUC), aka, their “rate case”. Therein, they propose myriad rate schedules for commercial, agricultural, residential and other customer groups. The CPUC eventually approves PG&E’s budget, but that’s not the end; over the ensuing three-year period, rate schedules are modified (read: rates are increased) to reflect contemporary PG&E expenses. Over the past two years, PG&E’s residential rates have increased ~43%. Ouch.

Like it or not, inflationary pressures on PG&E’s rates are somewhat just:

  • Replacement of aged infrastructure (e.g., natural gas lines; updated the grid);
  • Retirement of idled assets (e.g., “peaker” power plants; Diablo Canyon);
  • Reduction in generation of inexpensive hydro electricity (due to the drought);
  • AB 32 and the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS); and,
  • Long-term power purchase contracts.

And, living here, we have no choice but to love the one we’re with, at least until Valley Clean Energy Alliance (VCEA) launches. (Side note: PG&E has commenced its fear-and-smear campaign regarding VCEA and community choice energy … it’s gonna get ugly.)

Homeowners have four rate schedules to choose from:

  • E1 (the most common rate): Electricity is priced based on tiers (monthly usage).
  • EV: Time-of-use pricing for electric vehicle owners.
  • E-TOU (A): Time-of-use pricing, with “peak” periods from 3:00-8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • E-TOU (B): Also time-of-use, with peak pricing from 4:00-9:00 p.m.

So, what’s a homeowner to do? Here are a few simple ways to reduce your utility costs:

1. Go to PG&E’s website, log in to your (or create an) account and select “Compare Rate Plans” in the right column. Based on the time and volume of your electricity use, PG&E — such kind souls! — will quantify your costs under the above scenarios and suggest the least expensive rate schedule. More than likely, one of the time-of-use plans will reduce your bill.

2. Change your behavior. No, not your comfort (or the way you live), but your electricity use. Simple things like doing laundry in the morning, on weekends, or after 9:00 p.m. will lower your costs. So too, if you have a pool, will changing the time your pump runs; start it at 11:00 p.m. And, in the summer cool your home in the morning and early afternoon, then turn off your AC at 3:00.

3. Replace incandescent and CFL bulbs with LEDs. This is not even low hanging fruit in the energy savings world; it’s fruit laying on the ground. 

4. If you have a swimming pool, install a variable speed pool pump. Thereby you can reduce the electricity consumed by your pool by ~70%. Davis Home Trends, Leslies and several other stores can lend a hand.

5. If you haven’t done so already, go solar and insulate yourself from future PG&E rate increases. (No duh, eh?)

And, of course, feel free to contact us or stop by. As Jackson Browne once mused, we may not have the answer, but we believe we’ve got a plan.

$500 rebate from PG&E for electric vehicle owners

Occasionally, we'll stumble upon something that sounds too good to be true. Not fake news, but are-you-kidding-me offers. This one's good and real: A $500 rebate from PG&E to any current electric vehicle owner. No joke, no strings attached. The program commenced yesterday; here's an excerpt from Green Car Reports story:

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) now offers a $500 "Clean Fuel Rebate" for customers with electric cars.

The program, which just launched yesterday, is the result of California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which among other provisions, gives credits to utilities whose customers use home electricity to charge electric cars.

PG&E hopes to pass the value of those credits back to those customers, according to a company press release.

To be eligible, customers simply need an active PG&E residential account.

Customers can apply for a rebate for their own electric cars, or apply on behalf of an electric-car owner in their household (or a tenant, in multi-family households), after gaining that owner's permission.

Applicants need only a PG&E account number and a scanned image of the car's registration or sales/lease agreement, which can be be submitted through a web page set up for the program.

Feel free to contact us if you have questions or have trouble securing your rebate. And, for a day, we can all smile when we think about PG&E!