Customer Connected Solar & Net Metering FAQs
If you’re thinking about installing your own solar or other renewable energy source at your home or business, consider these frequently asked questions:
Customer Connected Solar
What is the financial investment?
Solar is a long-term investment. An experienced solar installer should be able to estimate what return on investment you can expect based on the size of your installation, sun exposure and other factors. If you’re looking to save money on your electricity bill immediately, there are other low and no-cost options. Learn more here.
If you’re not sure if you’re ready to install your own solar, but you’re still interested in supporting renewable energy, you may be eligible for one of our other renewable energy programs, like Green Power or Solar Choice, which do not require any equipment to install or maintain to participate.
Does my home or business need good sun exposure?
If your property is heavily shaded, solar panels will take longer to pay off than in areas with unrestricted sun exposure. Solar panels perform best when facing south (east and west or a combination is OK, too) and are unshaded between 10 a.m. and 3p.m. year round. There are online resources that can help determine how much sun your property gets on average.
What is the ideal size for a solar installation?
Your solar installation will be shaped by a variety of factors, including your budget, roof space and energy use. Installations are typically sized in kilowatts (kW), the power capacity of the system. An experienced installer should include in your bid the total project cost, the cost per kW and the expected annual energy output of the system based on analysis of your site. On average, 1 kW of solar power in the Puget Sound region can produce about 1,100 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually. Net metering lets you use the energy you generate to offset the cost of energy used from the grid at other times. Net metering does NOT provide any financial benefit to sizing a solar system to generate more energy than you use on an annual basis.
Will I need to make other upgrades at my home or business?
Consider other energy efficiency upgrades first. The lower your electric use, the smaller your investment in solar equipment needs to be to offset it. If you’re adding an electric vehicle or other large electrical appliance to your home in the near future, factor that into the sizing of your solar array. If you need to replace your electrical panel to accommodate solar, a qualified solar installer will review options and likely include it in their bid. If your roof isn’t fairly new, you might consider replacing it before installing solar. Once installed, solar panels should last more than 20 years, so any needed roof work should happen before installation.
What should I look for when choosing a solar installer?
Start by selecting an experienced installer. Through PSE Recommended Energy Professionals (REPs), you can find a reliable and qualified solar installer who can help determine if your home or business is ideal for solar. The solar installers in our REP network have high customer satisfaction rates and communicate in a timely manner. When considering solar, don’t feel pressured to sign anything before you fully understand the details and cost; be wary of aggressive sales and marketing tactics promising “free” or “no-cost” solar. We strongly recommend getting at least three bids on your solar project and checking references.
Is there financial help available for installing solar?
Yes, the Federal Investment Tax Credit may apply to your solar installation. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 increased the Investment Tax Credit from 26 percent to 30 percent for both business and residential projects. This includes systems installed in 2022 and will be available through the end of 2032. Find more information here.
Many solar installers can help you access financing through a local credit union or other financial institution and explain how that impacts the cost, benefits and estimated return on investment from your installation.
Will PSE pay me for excess generation?
Through net metering, PSE keeps track of the energy you use and the amount of excess power your system generates. The renewable energy sent back to the grid is credited against your usage. You only pay for the net amount of energy that PSE provides, plus your basic monthly charge. If you produce more energy than you use within a given bill period, PSE banks the extra net metering credit. Your banked credit will automatically offset energy charges in future bill periods. Per state law, banked net metering credits expire March 31 of each year. This is why we do not recommend sizing your solar array to produce more electricity than you expect to use annually.
Is net metering ending at PSE?
Interconnection and net metering are governed by WA State Law RCW 80.60.030. Per that law, PSE will continue to offer net metering as currently described as part of the Customer Connected Solar program and in our Rate Schedule 150 (where every kilowatt hour generated can be used to offset retail rate charges for energy consumed on an annual basis) until the amount of customers participating in net metering hits the state’s limit. You can see PSE’s progress toward hitting this limit by visiting Washington State University's website.
We’re confident the current net metering option will remain in place through at least 2023, and we’ll be working with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) and stakeholders to determine how net metering will work after that to continue supporting our customers’ needs. Per state law, PSE has no plans to discontinue opportunities for customers to interconnect to the grid or to use the power they generate.
What is the difference between solar systems with and without batteries?
Batteries add backup power. It is important to know that solar panels on their own cannot produce energy for your home during a grid outage. Solar Energy Systems disconnect automatically from the utility grid in the event of an outage to protect the safety of individuals and restoration crews. However, batteries installed along with solar can be charged from the grid or your solar panels and then can isolate from the grid during a power outage to provide power to some or all of the home's energy loads. The amount of time the batteries can power a home depends on the battery's size and the power used by the house.
Batteries do add to the cost of a system, so it is essential to consider how much value the backup power has to you. PSE is exploring ways to reduce the cost for customers to install a battery through either financial incentives or dynamic rate designs in exchange for customers allowing PSE to utilize a portion of the battery's stored capacity during peak events.
Request a list of PSE Recommended Energy Professionals (REPs) who can help you with solar and other green energy options for your home.