Installing solar panels on your Massachusetts home or business will dramatically lower your energy bills moving forward. But how exactly does it all work with your utility company?
Here are a few of the most common questions we’re asked, including how quickly solar panels can be operational after the installation as well as how solar incentives show up and are tracked on future utility bills.
When Does My Utility Company Change Out the Meter After Solar Installation?
After My Generation Energy finishes installing your solar panels and leaves the job site, we’ll call for an inspection from the local municipality or town. That inspection has to happen before we can send completion documents to your utility company - such as National Grid or Eversource. Once those documents are sent, Massachusetts requires the utility to swap out the meter, which typically happens within 2 weeks. My Generation Energy will help coordinate the completion of this meter swap.
What Does “Permission to Operate” (PTO) Mean?
Once your utility company changes your meter, they’ll send us a letter saying that you are allowed to turn your solar panel system on and connect it to the utility grid. We can assist you with this. Then you’re ready to go and start generating solar energy from your solar PV system!
Will I Still Get an Electric Bill After I Go Solar?
All of the solar panel systems that My Generation Energy installs are grid-tied (connected to the utility company’s electrical grid). Thus, these systems will still receive an electric bill every month, regardless of how much electricity your panels produced or how much power your home used.
However, if you’ve produced more electricity than you’ve used, your bill will read “No Payment Due” or something similar, and any excess electricity generated will be listed as a net metering credit which can be carried over to your next bill. If you’ve used more electricity than your panels produced, you’ll owe the balance (unless you have enough credit from previous months to cover it).
What Will My Electric Bill Look Like After I Go Solar?
Once your solar panels are up and running, your monthly electricity bills will look the same as they did before, only instead of only showing how much grid electricity you used, they will also show how much electricity was sent back to the grid from your panels, as well as any net metering balance.
See the example electricity bill from Eversource below with a “No Payment Due” line:
How Do I Find the Solar Net Metering Credits on My Bill?
Of the many Massachusetts solar incentives, net metering is one that you can really financially benefit from. It allows you to send back any excess electricity generated by your panels to your utility company, in exchange for a credit for any electricity you might get from the grid when your solar panels aren’t active, like at night. We tend to see our customers overproduce in the spring and summer, and use their net metering credits in the fall and winter.
On your monthly electricity bill, you’ll be able to see your net metering credits as a line item under your delivery charges—it could be called something like a “Net Meter Credit” or “NET MTR CRDT.” This credit is calculated using the rate of electricity during the billing period when your solar production exceeded your solar usage and will show a negative dollar amount. You’ll then be able to draw from that line of credit as needed in the future.
In your summary charges in the Eversource example above, you can see that this customer used $18.98 of his net metering credits. If his system had produced more energy than he used, his “Total Current Charges” would be a negative number, and would be added to his net metering credit balance. You can also view another sample Eversource bill here where net metering credits are shown as a line item under “Total Charges for Electricity”.
What Is a SMART Production Meter and How Do I Receive SMART Payments From My Utility?
The SMART solar incentive is a Massachusetts-only program in which you can qualify to be paid by your utility company for your solar production on a monthly basis over the course of 10 years for residential systems, or 20 years for larger commercial solar projects. This is on top of any net metering benefits, and how much you’re paid depends on how early you sign up for the program and which incentive “block” you fall into.
Your SMART production meter is a tool used to measure the amount of your solar production that is incentivized by the program. It’s read by the utility monthly, at the same time that they read your (separate) net meter.
You’ll receive your first SMART about 2 months after your utility receives confirmation of your SMART application approval and this will come by mail or direct deposit. Each month you’ll receive an email confirming how your SMART payment was calculated and you can log into the SMART payment website to view your payment history. Please note: if you are in the SREC program, you will not see a SMART Production Meter on your bill.
Will My Electric Bill Change Depending on the Season?
Your solar panels can only produce electricity when there’s daylight, and in the fall and winter seasons, the days get shorter, meaning there’s less time for your panels to produce electricity. Because it gets darker early, New England homeowners also tend to use more electricity during the shorter days of the year.
The good news is that if you’ve built up a negative balance during the summer months, you can carry that solar credit forward to help offset future bills when your production might not be as high and your electricity usage increases. Take a look at a typical energy production chart of a Massachusetts solar PV system over the course of one year. You can see the seasonal highs and lows.