If your electrical bills have been higher lately even though you have solar panels, you’re probably thinking that the panels aren’t working correctly. In reality, your PSEG bill went up due to a set of unusual circumstances in the past year. Let’s start by explaining net metering.
How Does Net Metering Work?
Solar panels produce more energy on some days and specific periods of the year than others. In states that have net metering laws, when your solar panels produce more energy than you use on a given day, the local electric company buys that surplus energy and “banks” it toward your electrical bill. Lower New York electric companies are PSEG on Long Island and ConEd in New York City.
So why the surge in PSEG bills in 2020 and 2021? As with many things in that period, you can blame the COVID-19 pandemic.
As daylight hours increase in spring, people typically spend more time outside enjoying the warm weather or going away for long weekends or full-scale vacations. So while their solar panels are creating energy, it goes unused. Spring weather usually requires less air conditioning than the big production months of July and August, so April, May, and June are typically prime months for building your energy bank with your electrical company.
The problem is that those months in 2020 were the height of the pandemic lockdown. People switched to working from home, weren’t going out, and not traveling. Tufts University highlighted this phenomenon in a recent article.
Instead of building an energy bank, homeowners with solar panels used as much electricity as they were producing or close to it. In many cases, they were even using more than their panels were collecting due to the unprecedented conditions.
Summer last year was just as bad. While people went out more frequently to break up the boredom of lockdown, the pandemic seriously curtailed summer travel. Movie theaters and summer camps in NY were closed. Summer fairs, festivals, and concerts were canceled. The typical summer activities that would take people out of their homes didn’t happen or occurred on a much smaller scale.
Worse, summer 2020 was a hot one, requiring even more air conditioning. All of those changes increased home energy use. Clean energy technology company Arcadia estimated that one-third of all U.S. households saw increases of 10-15 percent in their electrical bills.
Compounding the issue in New York is that during the lockdown, PSEG LI and ConEd only sent meter readers to homes with outside meters. The utilities used estimated billing for homes with meters inside. The estimates ended up being too conservative, which meant that when readings resumed in the fall, homeowners ended up with adjusted bills that were higher. So the combination of a smaller energy bank – if any – and higher bills are why your PSEG bill went up despite having solar panels.
If that’s what happened in 2020, why are some bills still high in 2021? Because the circumstances didn’t change instantly. Widespread vaccinations didn’t get rolling until March and April. While lockdown has ended, many people are still working from home and haven’t entirely switched back to pre-pandemic activities, all of which hinder building a bank with your electrical company.
While frustrating, the fact that 2020’s circumstances made it difficult for homeowners to build up a bank with PSEG and ConEd and quickly depleted any they did accumulate was an unusual set of circumstances. Still, those with solar panels faced much smaller electrical bills than their neighbors without them.
Greenleaf Is Long Island’s Leading Solar Company
Are you thinking about adding solar? Greenleaf Solar is one of America’s most trusted and reliable solar companies serving residential, commercial, and municipal needs. We’ve helped thousands of Long Islanders switch to high-efficiency solar systems. Contact our solar energy experts now for a free consultation.