One of the goals our clients bring to us is a net zero home. This means they want to generate as much energy with solar panels as they consume on an annual basis. It doesn’t mean off-grid, and it doesn’t mean that each month they will produce as much solar energy than they need. Some months they will produce excess, and some months there will be a shortfall, but the net amount of energy consumed from the grid is zero.
At the end of the year, if a homeowner produces more energy than they consume, they will get an account credit. The amount of the credit is based on the “wholesale rate” (COG-1 tariff). This is also known as the utility’s avoided cost. That’s fair because they should not have to pay the retail amount for individual solar producers’ excess energy they send to the grid on an annual basis.
So the challenge is to estimate how much energy will be used in a year. Historical usage is an indicator, but not always perfect. That’s why we have a conversation with clients about usage and habits so we can come up with the desired result.
Can I Really Get to Net Zero?
If you are wondering whether it is really possible, the answer is a resounding YES! This is a bill from one of our recent clients. The last bill of the calendar year shows a credit for the excess energy banked. Note that you will always be subject to the “Customer Charge.” This is not an energy charge, but an account maintenance fee. FPL’s fee is currently approximately $9 and LCEC’s monthly fee is closer to $19.
So when seeking a net zero home, you should know that does not necessarily mean a zero dollar bill. But we can knock off all or most of your energy use charges. That is the goal of net zero.
On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with just lopping off some of your electricity bill. In fact, the return on investment (ROI) can be slightly higher because electricity rates are tiered. Taking away the highest-priced energy first is the best ROI. We see many clients just offsetting part of their bill. This could be due to budgetary constraints or limitations of available roof space. And sometimes they are just trying to make a statement.
That’s the beauty of solar panels. You can offset all or part of your electricity usage and the return on investment is very similar. As long as you install enough panels to reasonably spread out the fixed costs of interconnection and monitoring hardware, an investment of any size makes sense!