Getting started with solar
Thinking of getting more efficient and eco-conscious at your home or business by generating your own renewable power? Good news: You can now seamlessly integrate your new clean system with the grid for reliable, safe energy that may even lower your monthly bill. Start here to learn about your options, find facts on the process, and get connected.
Throughout San Diego and the state, the number of people installing rooftop solar systems is increasing. In a recent study, San Diego ranked #2 in the nation’s rooftop solar installed cities. If you are considering going solar, there are some important facts you should know.
The California Public Utilities Commission, the state agency that regulates privately owned utilities in California, recently published its Solar Consumer Protection Guide to inform customers of potential false claims about residential solar systems and provide homeowners with a roadmap on how to go solar.
Did you know?
Solar providers submitting applications to interconnect residential solar customers are required to collect customer initials and a signature on the California Consumer Protection Guide starting September 30, 2019. See the guide for more details.
Going solar can benefit both the environment and your wallet. We’re here to support you during and after the transition, with backup energy from the grid and tools you can use to monitor and manage your energy habits, so you can make the most of your system.
- Environmental Responsibility: Protecting the environment is its own reward, and by investing in a renewable system for your home or business, you can feel good about contributing to a cleaner Southern California.
- Energy & Bill Savings: When you generate your own energy, you often need to buy less from the grid. Depending on your usage, this could reduce your bill. You can even earn bill credits for your excess energy, to offset costs when your system isn’t producing electricity, or during the summer when you use more than you generate.
- Stay Connected: The existing power grid is already greener than you may think: About 45% of the energy we currently deliver is from renewable sources like wind and solar farms. Plus, it’s always there to back up your renewable system at night when the sun sets or the wind dies down, so you always have a reliable source of power.
Interested in efficiency? Before you choose a renewable energy system for your home or business, it’s best to make it as efficient as possible. This will help you determine what size system to get and can save you money. Many efficiency tips are easy and free. Check out the following information:
Free Savings Tips
A few easy changes to how and when you use energy make a big difference.
- Use daylight instead of light bulbs as much as possible
- Operate major appliances during off-peak hours (before 4 p.m. or after 9 p.m.)
- Set your thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer
- Turn down the water heater to 120°
Small and smart upgrades to your space can really add up.
- Swap incandescent bulbs for efficient CFLs
- Install inexpensive occupancy sensors
- Use a programmable thermostat
- Look for the ENERGY STAR® logo when you buy appliances
Updating and upgrading your space may minimize your renewable system size needs.
- Weatherize windows, doors, and other openings
- Insulate attics, floors, and walls
- Consider smart appliances that respond to demand
- Keep major appliances maintained and up to date for maximum efficiency
Already Optimized? Find a Contractor
Wondering how much going solar will cost? The size of the system you install is a major factor. We recommend making efficiency upgrades first – this may make your system size and equipment costs smaller. Once you’ve made your home or business as efficient as possible, you can use the California Solar Initiative’s (CSI) statewide calculator to get estimates on what size equipment you’ll need and your expected level of investment.
Net Energy Metering (NEM) is how we’ll track and bill your energy usage once your system is installed. Think of it like a two-way conversation between your renewable system and us. Your NEM-enabled meter lets us know when you needed energy from the grid (for example, when the sun goes down), and also when your system generated more energy than you needed and sent it back out to the grid, which can earn you credits that may offset your bill balance. Learn More
Your billing will work a little differently, too: Learn More
As Southern Californians increasingly integrate batteries into their photovoltaic (PV) systems, it’s good to understand how solar and storage work together and how this might affect your bill. Statewide rules have been adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission to ensure that Net Energy Metering (NEM) generation credits are earned only from electricity produced by the PV system, and not for energy delivered from the SDG&E’s electrical grid that is used to charge the battery. We’re here to help you stay informed, so you can make the right choices for your system and lifestyle.
If you have an energy storage battery paired with a solar generator, the maximum level of NEM credits you can earn is based on an electricity production estimate of what your PV system is capable of producing. According to the rules, this is how we identify exported energy that is not eligible for NEM credits under the NEM program. If you use a battery at your home or business, we encourage you to program it accordingly. Learn More
You’ll have the option to choose a pricing plan when you submit your solar application to us. Otherwise, we’ll enroll you in our default plan for renewables customers. Certain factors can affect which pricing plan will be the best for you. If you’ve got an electric car, a pool, or use electric-powered medical equipment at home, for example, there could be a better plan for you. Learn More
A qualified solar contractor can help you navigate the process, take care of paperwork and permits, and of course safely and expertly install your system. You contractor should provide free written estimates and comprehensive quotes and be eligible for incentive programs*.
Get three or more estimates: Estimates can vary in price. Get them in writing.
Licensed contractors only: You can confirm your contractor’s license here. Check it regularly.
Check insurance & bonding: Make sure contractors are sufficiently insured for your project.
Request references: Try to speak to at least three, and visit previous projects if you can.
Read before you sign: Take the time to read and understand documents before signing.
Know Your Rights: California has rules to protect consumers who install solar. Stay informed about your rights. Learn More
* Please keep in mind that SDG&E doesn’t endorse any particular contractor and the projected savings are estimates based on SDG&E’s current rates. The calculated savings, depending on the amount of solar energy you want to produce, is an estimate based on the historical energy use of your home. It is important to understand that these estimated savings are based on SDG&E’s current rates and that changes to rates and/or rate structures and incentive availability may impact the amount of savings in future years. The California Public Utilities Commission is currently evaluating electric rate structures which could affect future savings.
Incentives and rebates are available to make solar and renewable energy options more affordable. Explore your options and see if you qualify for financial support when you install or upgrade. Learn More
What’s the best way to choose a renewable system?
If you’re considering a renewable system, there are a number of steps you should take in making your decision. Often, the most cost-effective things you can do to reach your efficiency goals are simple, inexpensive upgrades and small changes to your energy-use habits. If you still want to install a renewable system, educate yourself on your options. There are a number of different types of solar and other self-generating systems available.
How much does a solar system and installation cost?
Solar system and installation costs vary according to size, location, and contractor. You can use the California Solar Initiative’s Solar Calculator to estimate your costs and get a system size recommendation. You’ll also want to get quotes from multiple contractors. Your contractor can help you identify placement and other details of which system you’ll ultimately install. To get started, check out our Step-by-Step guide.
How often do I need to replace my system?
A quality renewable system, if properly installed, should provide you with decades of self-generated energy. Since new technology develops rapidly, you may opt to update or upgrade your system over time. You’ll also want to properly maintain your system to maximize its lifespan.
What’s involved in maintaining my system?
For most standard rooftop solar systems, an annual inspection and cleaning by a qualified professional is sufficient to maintain your system and keep it operating at optimal capacity. Talk to your contractor about maintenance package options when you install.
Can I go renewable without installing a system?
Yes. If you’d like renewable energy at home, but installation of a system doesn’t make sense for you, consider our EcoChoiceTM option. EcoChoice allows you to “subscribe” to renewable energy through SDG&E. Learn More >
What is Net Energy Metering?
When you install a renewable energy system at your home or business, you become a Net Energy Metering, or NEM, customer. NEM measures your energy use in both directions: it tells us both your system’s excess output (surplus energy you sell to us for generation credits) and your home or business intake from the grid (energy you need to supplement your system).
If you generate more energy than you use, you can earn generation credits. These can be applied to your account to use on a later bill when you do owe a balance, perhaps on cloudier months when your system doesn’t get as much sunlight, or when it’s hot out and you’re using more energy to run your AC. At the end of every 12-month cycle, you’ll have a “true-up” bill. This is when you’ll need to pay off any outstanding balance.
Does NEM track the energy my renewable system generates?
NEM doesn’t track all of the energy your renewable system generates: only the surplus energy that flows out of your home or business and into the electric grid. We cannot track or advise how much overall energy your system produces.
What’s Time of Use?
Throughout California, customers are switching to Time-of-Use pricing plans. These pricing plans give you more choice and control for managing your energy use. With Time of Use, it matters not only how much energy you use but also when you use it.
Time-of-Use prices are generally the highest in the summer, during daylight hours. Why? Because that's when there isn't enough clean energy to meet peak demand and we have to use other energy sources. If you can wait to run your clothes dryer until evening hours, you’ll pay less for that energy than you would at, say, noon. Because Time of Use incentivizes you to shift energy off peak, it helps balance demand, saves energy, and decreases the need for conventional power sources. You can choose the Time-of-Use pricing plan that’s best for you household by logging into My Account and select your pricing plan.
What are my pricing plan options?
We offer multiple Time-of-Use pricing plans for NEM customers. Log in to My Account and select your pricing plan.
How do you calculate my NEM generation credits?
We calculate your NEM generation credits according to the surplus energy your renewable system feeds back into the grid. We’ll credit the wholesale value of that energy into your monthly bill, to offset your bill total. If you have more credits than you owe, your credits will roll over to the following month, until your annual “true-up” bill.
What is “Permission to Operate”?
“Permission to Operate,” or PTO, simply refers to the date that you’ll start being a Net Energy Metering (NEM) customer. This means you’ve been approved and activated to start NEM on a specific date, going forward.
What is Virtual Net Metering?
Virtual Net Metering (VNM) is similar to Net Energy Metering (NEM), but involves several customers sharing a single renewable energy system. This option is most applicable to properties with multiple tenants, like apartment complexes and office buildings.
For example: If you are a tenant in a four-unit apartment building, and your landlord installs a solar energy system with VNM, you would be allocated a percentage of that system’s output, and – if that system generates more energy than your building needs – the same percentage of its generation credits. The building’s usage would all be calculated through a single meter, but you’d still receive an individual bill.
What is NEM Aggregation?
NEM Aggregation is designed for customers with renewable systems on multimetered properties. It allows you to “aggregate” your energy production and consumption into one balance, so you can offset your non-renewable energy use with your renewable energy surplus.
A good example is a small farm: If the farmhouse is equipped with solar panels that generate surplus energy – that is, more than the farmhouse needs – that surplus can be used to offset the energy costs incurred by a water pump used for irrigation on another area of the property.
I’m producing excess energy. Why do I still owe on my bill?
There are a few reasons you’ll still owe a balance on your bill, even after installing a renewable energy system like solar.
The most common reason is that your self-generating system is producing less energy than you’re using. When this happens, any generation credits you earn when your system overproduces may not completely offset the energy you use from the grid – for example at night when solar panels aren’t creating energy. If you’re using more than your system creates, you’ll still owe for the difference.
You should also know that there are certain fixed charges on your bill that are separate from energy charges. These include operating costs, fees and taxes. We charge these to build and maintain the infrastructure that keeps your electricity, and the entire grid, running smoothly and reliably, and to make updates and repairs when necessary.
Does my excess energy roll over or do I lose it?
Energy credits will be carried forward from month to month until the end of each 12-month cycle, at which point your bill will be “trued up” to determine the balance due, and any unused credits will not be carried forward. To maximize your credits, you will want to monitor your usage throughout the year.
Why can’t I be reimbursed for my leftover generation credits at my true-up?
In some cases, with specific types of credits, you may be eligible for reimbursement for credits that will not roll over into the next 12-month cycle. We invite you to contact customer service to inquire if you’re eligible for any reimbursements.
How do you decide what my excess energy is worth?
When your renewable system exports excess energy into the grid, we compensate you with generation credits at the wholesale market value of that energy.
The energy you buy from us is priced at the retail market value, which is typically higher than wholesale, although the pricing of both fluctuate with the market over time.
Can I change my rate back to my previous one?
Once you choose a pricing plan, you’ll be billed through that plan for a 12-month cycle. After 12 months, you may opt for a different plan.
Why do I have to connect to the grid if I have a self-generating system?
Even if you invest in a self-generating system, you may not always have enough power for your home or business. A solar-panel system, for example, doesn’t generate electricity at night, when the sun is down. During that time, you’ll need the grid to supplement your renewable system.
Being interconnected also allows you to export any excess energy you generate to the grid and earn generation credits that can be applied to your statement balance. This will offset your costs when you do need supplemental energy.
Can you recommend a contractor?
We don’t endorse or recommend specific contractors for any job, but we do offer tips and resources to help you find a qualified contractor in your area. Check out our Contractor Checklist or Search by ZIP Code for a licensed contractor.
Are there government subsidies or rebates for going renewable?
Are there government subsidies or rebates for going renewable? There are a number of rebates and incentives for installing a renewable energy system. You may also qualify for a tax incentive or subsidy. Find more resources here.
I don’t own my home but want to go solar. Can I?
If you’re a renter or live in a home you don’t own, you may still be able to participate in renewable energy. Talk to your landlord about Virtual Net Metering (VNM), or check out the EcoChoice™ option, which allows you to “subscribe” to renewable energy through your account with us.
My home doesn’t have a rooftop that will accommodate solar but I want to use green energy. What are my options?
If your home isn’t a good candidate for a solar – or other renewable – system, you can still subscribe to the EcoChoice™ option. With EcoChoice, you’ll pay an additional fee to know that you’re receiving your energy from green-energy sources.
What is a pricing plan versus a rate?
A pricing plan is just that: a plan that prices your energy according to a set of rules. Instead of a flat “rate” per kw, our pricing plans are structured according to Time of Use. Prices change according to time of day and year, based on peak demand. You can learn all about Time of Use here.
Are there NEM pricing plans for low-income customers?
Many low-income households qualify for subsidized NEM billing through the California Alternative Rates for Energy, or CARE program, and customers with electrical medical equipment may need a Medical Baseline plan with NEM.
Why do you do an annual “True-Up” bill for NEM customers?
At the end of each 12-month cycle for NEM customers, we send an annual “true-up” statement. This is when any outstanding balance you owe for the year needs to be paid.
Because your NEM bill balance can be positive or negative month to month, depending on your usage and the output of your renewable system, the “true-up” creates a simple way to zero out your balance annually.
Can I go renewable if I’m a medical baseline customer?
If you use life-saving electrical medical equipment at home, you know that a reliable source of power is critical. That’s why it’s important to stay connected to the grid if you decide to install a solar or other renewable energy system. When the sun sets and your system isn’t producing electricity, you’ll always have energy flowing to keep your equipment running when you need it.
Can I get a Medical Baseline pricing plan with NEM?
We offer NEM pricing plans that are compatible with Medical Baseline, so you can keep your allocation and the necessary measures can be taken to keep your health equipment running. Call us to discuss your options when you decide to go renewable.
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