FPL Solar Bill Math Does Not Add Up

How to Read FPL Netmetering Bill with Solar Panels

In Education 22 Comments

If you are an FPL customer with solar electric panels, you might be asking how do you read your FPL Netmetering bill? It’s extremely confusing, but once you understand some of the basics of how netmetering works, it all comes together – if you know where to look.

Check out this fuzzy math from our friends at FPL:

FPL Solar Bill Math Does Not Add Up

Clearly that doesn’t add up. But why? Let’s examine the charges on this bill.

FPL Bill Solar Charges for Electricity

Assuming the 333 kWh number is correct, I was charged correctly for that net amount of electricity consumed from the grid.

333 x 0.057690 = $19.21 and 333 x 0.030960 = $10.31

So far, so good. But why doesn’t the math add up? To learn why, you need to dig deeper into the “Keep In Mind” section, which sounds like an afterthought, but includes some very important numbers.

FPL Bill Solar Energy Produced How to Find

Buried deep in this section in the last bullet point is key information about how much energy FPL received from you, and it will help reconcile the fuzzy math shown earlier. First, it’s important that you understand one very critical fact:

FPL has no idea how much energy your solar energy system produced!

How can that be? They say right there that 557 kWh was sent to the grid.

FPL can only meter electricity delivered to your home or received from your home to the grid. What they cannot see is energy your solar energy system produced that was used concurrently in your home. So in fact, I produced much more than 557 kWh during this billing period, but FPL can only see that they received 557 kWh energy in excess of what I needed. You need a solar monitoring system to know your true energy production, but that’s not important for FPL billing, because all we are concerned about is that we are charged correctly for the net amount of energy we use. That’s the amount of electricity they deliver to us minus what we send back to them.

Back to the fuzzy math. FPL also reports in the Keep In Mind section that I had 50 kWh in reserve. This is energy that I “put in the bank” the prior billing period. They added that 50 kWh to the amount of electricity I delivered to them this billing period, 557 kWh, and credited me the total, 607 kWh, against this bill.

If you take the current reading minus the previous reading, the answer is really:

17556 – 16616 = 940

Subtract from that the solar energy I produced this month and banked last month and you get:

940 – 557 – 50 = 333

So the net amount of energy for which they billed me is correct. They still don’t know how much I actually consumed in total – just the amount I needed to make up shortfalls in solar energy (like at night) and the net amount of energy to bill me. Here is a video with my commentary that explains how this all works:

Now if you look back at my previous bill, you will see that I was not billed for any energy – just the monthly customer charge and taxes.

Net Zero Electricity Usage

The math is still wrong, but if you look down at the Keep In Mind section, it explains things again, albeit in a different location in the first bullet this time, which is frustratingly confusing.

Reconciling FPL Solar Net Metering Bill

In this billing period I sent 716 kWh to the grid, but I only consumed 666 kWh from the grid, so they put 50 kWh in the bank for me. This increased my reserve and my balance at that time was 50 kWh, which I used the subsequent month as we saw above.

I don’t know why they made the bill so hard to understand. I can only assume that they did not want to modify their billing platform to make it easier to understand. Maybe it would have been a large expense, or maybe they just want to bury the information so it doesn’t look very beneficial to solar energy producers. In any case, the simple solution would be to add lines to the Meter Summary section to make things very clear. For example, on the two bills above, the Meter Summary sections could have looked like this:

First Month

Current Reading 16616
Previous Reading 15950
Net Usage 666
Solar Energy Received -716
Solar Energy From Reserve -0
Billed Usage 0
Solar Energy Reserved 50
Cumulative Solar Reserve 50

Second Month

Current Reading 17556
Previous Reading 16616
Net Usage 940
Solar Energy Received -557
Solar Energy From Reserve -50
Billed Usage 333
Solar Energy Reserved 0
Cumulative Solar Reserve 0

 

Maybe someone has a better idea, but this is much more clear to me, and it puts all of the pertinent meter reading data in one section. It is easily reconcilable in table format.

FPL’s net metering bill is too hard to understand, and if you have been wondering how to read your bill when you have solar panels, I hope this has explained things.

Comments

  1. I have New Solar Panels Installed and the FPL new meter is already installed.My question is: on the meter when it says Received does it means the FPL has received or I have received.The same when it says Delivered does it means delivered to FPL or delivered to me?

    Thank you
    Joseph Botelho

    1. Author

      It’s from FPL’s perspective, so delivered is energy delivered to you and received is energy received from you (i.e. excess solar FPL received from you).

  2. Just to clarify, if you need 500 kWh per month for your house and your solar system produces 500 kWh total per month in the daytime, is your usage bill $0 + ‘service’ fees of around $30?

    If you need 500 kWh per month for you house and your solar system produces 600 kWh per month in the daytime, is your usage bill $0 – 100 kWh credit that they pay towards your ‘overall’ bill or do they say that credit is only off of the usage and not the ‘service’ fees? In other words, can you accumulate a credit of usage in ‘real dollars’ equivalent to what they charge you for the electricity, or do they say we only reduce your bill but you will never have a $0 bill or be able to collect a check from us from selling us electricity? If they do cut you a refund check for excess energy produced, how much do they pay for kWh?

    Thanks

    1. Author

      If you produce 500kWh and that is exactly the same as your needs, correct – $0 plus customer charge, which varies, and it’s about $10 here in SW Florida.

      If you need 500kWh and you produce 600kWh, you bill would still be $0 plus customer charge. The 100kWh is not used to offset the customer charge. It is put in reserve for use in a future month where you produce less than you consume and applied in that month.

      You can accumulate a credit over time as a result. At the end of the calendar year they calculate the value of credits and cut you a check or issue a bill credit. The dollar amount is based on the “avoided cost” value of energy per kWh, or the COG-1 tariff rate as it is known. Currently that is about half of the retail electricity rate. For simplicity, we call it the wholesale rate.

      So if you generate enough credits to equal the cost of the customer charges over a year, yes, you can end up with a zero net bill theoretically. But we do not advise this as the wholesale rate does not provide an attractive ROI.

  3. Thanks Jason for your response. Do you know if I install grid-tie solar inverters to my 240 VAC line, do I need a ‘special’ electric meter that subtracts the kWh you provide to the grid in addition to what you use in the daytime? I found this comment from two years ago, “Unfortunately, those with solar electric systems that are under a netmetering agreement will not get the new smart meters. It is unclear whether the meters are bi-directional, or whether FPL or the manufacturer just hasn’t tested the accuracy measuring energy fed back to the grid. I’m trying to get clarification on that matter from FPL and will let you know if I hear back from their netmetering department.”

    This is a similar FPL meter to the one I have:

    https://i.ytimg.com/vi/pQWp_F_FjM0/maxresdefault.jpg

    If I don’t enter any special netmetering agreement with FPL and just use this existing meter with grid-tie inverters, will the extra kWh I produce still get subtracted from my bill? The old analog meters would just spin backwards and subtract off the kWh you provide to the grid. I’m not sure if the new digital meters have SW to subtract off the kWh you provide to the grid like the old analog meters. Note my grid-tie inverters don’t provide any output power and disconnect themselves from the line if there is no incoming voltage from FPL (in case of a power outage).

    1. Author

      You need a special bi-directional meter. This is the only way to have energy properly recorded when delivered back to the grid. It’s illegal to operate a system without and interconnection agreement and bi-directional meter. Furthermore, you may actually pay MORE for power if you do not install the proper meter. It is inaccurate to assume that old analog meters recorded energy in the negative direction when spinning backward. Just because the disk spun backward, that does not mean it recorded energy in the negative direction. In fact, it can record positive energy when spinning backward and you will actually be charged for the excess energy you produced!

      There are no shortcuts. You need an agreement and a meter swap.

    1. Author

      Max is typically reserved for customers on a commercial account with demand metering. Max would mean the maximum power draw from the utility company based on your demand charge schedule.

    1. Author

      Mark,

      There is not a single meter model they use. I have seen several types.

  4. Hi Jason, thanks for this excellent blog.

    I am thinking about installing a solar system and also a battery of about 12kWh storage capacity. This could minimize the amount of energy that I give back to the grid as this has a dollar value that is half the retail rate. I think this could also optimize the size of my solar panels. Let’s say my average consumption is 20kWh per day, I would dimension my panels with a 25% additional cushion or 25kWh. The average price of an installed kWh is $2,000 so my installation would cost me $50,000 after ITC. Out of this, $10,000 is the cost of the 25% cushion.

    If I put a battery of 6kWh for $5,000, it could offset the cushion, and absorb irregularities in the system so I minimize the excess production that is injected into the grid and paid at half the price by FPL.

    does it make sense?

    Thanks
    Pere

    1. Author

      Hi Pere,
      What you are describing is called “self-consumption” in the solar world, and most major battery and inverter manufacturers support this mode in one way or another. The whole process can be managed for you based on your rates and time of day. However, this is not necessary in most parts of Florida because we have Net Metering, which means you get the retail electricity rate (credits) for energy sent back to the grid. I’m not sure where you are located, but you should consult a professional in your area that is familiar with self-consumption.

  5. Jason,

    I find your information to be precise and to the point, thank you from all of us.

    Would it be a benefit to have FPL’s “TOU” rates/program with a solar system tied into the grid in South Florida? In essence could I produce solar power during the day at a higher rate and get a return at the lower night rates? I would think not, but I thought I would ask.

    Thanks

    1. Author

      Andrew: Unfortunately, that’s not how FPL’s TOU rates work. For half of the year, the peak TOU rate is not during the day. You would almost definitely lose if you switched. It would also depend on when you consume energy. If you have very low daytime consumption and high nighttime consumption, it could work to your advantage during summer. However, that is usually not the way it goes in Florida with air conditioning. You really need to be able to send electricity back to the grid in summer to make it beneficial.

  6. Hi Jason, thanks a lot for the detailed information. Do you have any indication of how long the installation of the bidirectional meter takes from the time you submit to FPL? We are anxious to get our system to operate and now are waiting for FPL to approve. I agree with the battery comments. For Netmetering customers it does not make sense in my eyes, unless you want to use it in case of a hurricane power outage instead of a generator. Still, I know people in my neighborhood that got batteries installed. I just don’t understand why since the cost does not seem to reasonable (at least to me).
    Regarding your bill explanation: I believe you used the wrong rate (above 1,000 kWh) – although the math is correct with the rate under 1,000 kWh being applied for fuel based electricity.

    1. Author

      Once your application is submitted (and fee paid if it is over a Tier 1 system) it is typically approved in 1-2 business days. After that approval, the meter is generally swapped out within 5 business days. Depending on your location and that team’s workload, it could be the next day or several days. On rare occasions, FPL will require a visual inspection by one of their employees (on a random basis). This could delay the meter swap for a week or so.

      I agree with your battery assessment.

      And thanks for picking up on the typo. I have corrected the rate used in the analysis.

  7. Jason, we just had an 11.75 kw system installed in Delray Beach. They installed the bidirectional meter 4 days ago, and everything is working beautifully. In the first 3 days our system has generated about 125 kWh, which is acceptable, since one of those days was very cloudy. The information you have provided is helping me understand the billing and the production and how FP&L presents it. I look forward to getting my first bill. One thing that FP&L will NOT do is to cut you a check at the end of the year if you have a credit. They told me that when I called and asked. They never will, even if every year you have a credit, so it is important to not have a system that produces considerably more than you will ever consume. That is like throwing money away.

    1. Author

      Hi Fred,

      That’s not completely accurate. At the end of the year if you have excess credits they will equate that to dollars at the avoided cost rate and give you a bill credit in dollars. You can use this dollar amount to offset customer charges in future billing periods. When you close your account they WILL (must) cut you a check for the negative balance on your account. One way to get this to happen earlier is to close your account and have it placed in the name of your spouse/partner if you have one. So they will eventually cut you a check, but not if you use the credits for customer charges and not until you close your account.

  8. I think for a Multi Billion Dollar Company like FPL, they need to replace their database.

    * Simply create a database for all the kW I used for the month.
    * In that database create where you can see how many kW I gave to FPL. This way we can see how accurate FPL is compared to my statistical tool, Solar Edge Monthly report.
    * Then with these 2 numbers bill me or credit me.

    *What FPL does is combine the delivered and received never showing the 2 above, hiding the actual numbers.

    Multi Billion dollar companies do have web developers that can simply do this, it is simple Bullion Logic, if not this, then that!

    How simple!

    But no.

    1. Author

      Hi Damian,

      What you are describing is physically impossible without installing a second utility meter. They have no idea how much total energy you are using. When you are using energy concurrently with solar production, it never passes through the meter so FPL would have no way of knowing how much you use in total.

      FPL does show you on your bill how much you send back to them. To calculate how much you used in total for the perior, add the net consumption from FPL to your total solar produced in the SolarEdge monitoring.

      Also, the SolarEdge monitor is not nearly as accurate as FPL’s meter unless you have optional revenue grade metering installed. Even then, you will still be up to 3% off when making comparisons because you will not know what time of day FPL “reads” the meter. Your SolarEdge monitoring output will give you production and consumption on a calendar day basis.

      So yes, FPL’s data is confusing, but they can’t accomplish what you are describing at any cost unless the Netmetering Rule in Florida is changed to require two meters for solar energy production. That is the job of hte Public Service Commission. I don’t see this happening, as the added cost would be considerable for each system.

  9. Jason
    Thanks a lot for this explanation. I’ve had panels up for 2 months, and I just wrote to ask the installing company about something I saw on the FPL bill. In their website’s energy dashboard, I see that what they show received on a daily basis does not match what my system’s software says that I delivered; in some cases is 10kwh or more difference.
    I will print your explanation above out, and I will have the lat bill on the other hand to really look at the numbers.

    In terms of that yearly credit that they issue, I was told by a good friend that worked at the FPL solar-billing area that they mail you a check and also a 1099 form. This explains why they ask for the SSN on the interconnect agreement. In other words, you generated excess electricity, and FPL will return it to you in the form of a check but as if you are a contractor. Naturally, a 1099 = taxes to be paid. Has that happened to you? I assume that you’ve had your panels a lot longer than me.
    Again, thank you

    1. Author

      You would only get a 1099 if you produced more than you consumed on an annual basis and the amount of your refund is $600 or more. That is virtually impossible to do when FPL restricts your system size to about 115% of historical usage. I have never heard of a homeowner receiving a 1099.

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