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Is solar the best option to reduce your SDGE electricity bill?

What makes CutMyBill better than other solar cost and savings calculators for SDGE customers?

There are three key reasons that our SDGE solar cost and bill savings calculator is far better than any other solar calculator or solar estimate website on the net for SDGE customers;

  • Firstly, whilst most solar panels calculators are really good at forecasting the electricity production you can get from installing solar panels for your home (because they all rely on the solar production data) most of them just use a single generic state wide unit cost for electricity in their calculations. Our SDGE solar cost and bill savings calculator actually uses our database of each of the available SDGE electric rates plans to use more specific electricity cost data. Therefore we can generate much more accurate solar savings analysis.
  • The second reason is that we use DOE (Department of Energy) electricity usage patterns for the SDGE service territory, and some very basic questions we ask you about your home to estimate how you use power over the course of a day and the seasons of the year. This allows us to accurately forecast solar savings where time of use electricity plans are available to you. We estimate your electricity usage for each hour of the year and then overlay the known production of solar panels in your area for each hour of the year. Without this level of detail solar panel cost and savings calculators on are inaccurate; and
  • Lastly, before we even consider solar savings, we look for any savings that can be achieved simply by swapping to a cheaper available SDGE rate plan. Our software looks for any available SDGE rates plan that works our cheaper for your estimated usage pattern. Generally speaking savings from swapping to a cheaper SDGE rates plan are only available to those who have larger monthly electric bills but given it only takes a phone call to achieve these savings it is by far the quickest and easiest bill cutting option where it is possible.
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Will installing a solar power system or swapping rate plans save me the most on my monthly SDGE payment?

There are almost always far greater cost savings to be obtained from installing solar panels than swapping rates plans but this doesn't mean possible savings from swapping rate plans should be ignored. The other reason we search for your cheapest rate plan is that to forecast total possible savings you could get on your bill you need to take into account both savings that may be available from swapping to the cheapest rate plan and also savings that come from swapping your generation source for some of your power usage to your own solar power.

Compare savings from swapping rate plans to solar savings


How accurate is the CutMyBill estimate of my power usage pattern?

The CutMyBill electricity usage profile estimator is a key part of the technology of why CutMyBill can forecast solar and bill swapping savings so accurately without requiring you to enter your kilowatt hour electricity usage for each month of the year or to upload 12 months worth of power bills.

The way we do this is we use electricity use profiles collected by the Department of Energy for each building type at each weather station across the SDGE service territory. Some of the characteristics of your home such as your average monthly power spend and the square footage of your home are used to refine this analysis.

This gives a fairly accurate estimate but it is not an exact estimate. The best way to get an exact estimate of your solar savings and whether or not there are possible savings from swapping rate plans is to speak to one of your local solar companies. Whilst solar companies are experts in solar they also become experts in knowing the cheapest rate plans (both before and after solar) from their local utility companies.

Estimate my power usage pattern over a day and over the seasons of the year


There are three options that you can explore to cut your power bill as a SDGE customer.

Pro's of solar panel installation in the SDGE territory: It is commonly possible to save $50,000 or more over the lifetime of the system by installing solar panels and get a payback in 5-7 years on a product that will keep saving you money for up to 25 years or longer. There are now also competitive financing options that mean most homeowners can get solar panels on a zero down loan.

Con's of installing solar panels: Solar panel installation is a fairly big project and requires you to have the unshaded roof space available to do it. (Our calculator shows you how much roof space you need). This bill savings option is usually not available to renters or people living in multi-family buildings.

Pro's of swapping rate plans: Costs nothing and is easy.

Con's of swapping rate plans: Savings may be relatively small, but given it costs nothing and only takes an email to SDGE, why not!

Pro's of energy efficiency: It may be a smaller project and a less costly process than installing solar panels.

Con's of energy efficiency: It may be hard to borrow money to specifically do energy efficiency upgrades, unlike solar panels installation where there are existing products designed for that purpose. Additionally, pursuing energy efficiency upgrades may involve retiring household appliances or HVAC equipment before the end of their useful life, which somewhat offsets the environmental and economic benefits. It also usually takes some degree of investment in expert analysis before the actual level of savings can be determined.

Can I get a lower power bill by swapping to a different SDGE rate plan?

SDGE have a number of different rate plans available for both residential and commercial customers and each has its own rules and rates.

The recent announcement that SDGE plan on phasing out tiered rate schedules leaves consumers with a choice of two residential time of use plans and a third time of use plan that can only be used if you also install solar panels.

Our website provides a comparison of the SDGE time of use plans, but one thing to remember is that when these plans' rates are determined they are designed to offer a similar overall cost to an average consumer with average usage patterns, regardless of which plan is chosen. What this means is that if your power bill is in the range of $80 to $120 per month, then it is likely that both of their time of use plans will come out to a similar overall cost per month.

However, there are two options that may offer considerable savings. First, there is a TOU-DR-P plan that offers cheaper rates but then penalizes you if your usage is high on "high power use" days. The way this works is that SDGE advise you of a high use day and you then have to reduce your individual usage on those days or face very high rates. However, the tradeoff is that if you can do this you get rates that are around 20% cheaper than the standard rates on all other non-"high power use" days.

Secondly, if you choose to install a solar system then you become eligible for the DR-SES plan, and this plan can offer large savings where your solar system is large enough to cover your daytime usage during the peak hours and to also export power to the grid during this time. DR-SES has different peak hours to the other SDGE time of use rate plans.

The beauty of the DR-SES plan is that your solar export between 11 am and 6 pm is credited at the very high peak rate of $0.5296 per kWh (less the non-bypassable charges of around $0.025 per kWh). This means that for every 1 kWh of exported solar power during the day you are getting enough credit to cover around 2 kWh's of usage at night, or during the early morning and late afternoon peaks. The downside of this plan is that there is no baseline credit, but practically adding a solar system and adopting this plan is by far the best option for reducing your SDGE power bill.

If you already spend less than the typical $80-$120 on power, then the ETOU-A plan with a baseline credit may offer a cheaper solution. However, the consumer that can save the most is a large user of energy as the ETOU-B rate plan becomes cheaper for larger usage.

You will find that a common theme on this website is that there is little that can be done to reduce electricity costs if your electric bill is small other than changing lifestyle patterns, but as usage and costs increase, rate plan savings can become significant.

Even for larger users the amount that you can save by installing solar panels will be much more than what you can save by simply swapping rate plans. However, swapping rate plans is so easy that it is generally worth doing even if the savings are small.

How much can I lower my power bill through adopting energy efficiency measures?

As with swapping rate plans the amount you can save by adopting energy efficiency measures will vary greatly with the amount of energy you currently use. The bigger your current energy use the greater the scope for savings.

When I consider energy efficiency measures I like to break them up into:

  • Energy efficiency measures that affect lifestyle; and
  • Energy efficiency measures that don't affect lifestyle

What are energy efficiency measures that affect your lifestyle?

Obviously we can all make a conscious decision to use less energy but many of these measures will have some degree of negative effect on your quality of life. Sitting in a hot room in summer can be difficult for some people who would rather turn on the air conditioner, and many would rate this as a large negative impact. Alternatively, hanging your clothes outside to dry rather than using a clothes dryer can be a simple and highly effective power saving method with low lifestyle impact, but this approach depends on whether you are at home during the day.

However, with most energy bill analysis it is only possible to do a sensible estimate of possible savings from energy efficiency if we assume a constant level of lifestyle. But it is worth remembering that is you can use less energy by changing habits this does offer the potential for significant savings on top of any other measures taken.

How to calculate savings from energy efficiency measures?

The Department of Energy has developed a series of energy efficiency savings calculators that allow you to calculate the amount of money you could save broken down into the major categories of appliances that use power such as:

  • Heating
  • Cooling
  • Lighting
  • Clothes washing and drying
  • Food preparation and dish washing
Reduce your energy by using your appliances less


The Calculators are available here and can be used to calculate the savings that can be achieved by using these devices less frequently (lifestyle changes) and also savings that can be achieved by using more efficient versions of each of these appliances.

Installing solar panels for your home in Southern California

A constant theme on this website is that if you have a suitable house, then installing solar panels on it is usually the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your long term power costs.

The returns from installing solar panels on your home in San Diego and surrounding areas of Southern California are usually so attractive that the monthly power bill savings alone can fully cover loan repayment such that you are not even out of pocket during the initial payback period, and then after the payback period you then will enjoy years of living with little or no power bill. Payback periods around San Diego are generally in the range of 5-7 years, and the life of solar panels is at least 25 years. This means it is possible to take a zero-down solar loan, then use the money previously spent on utility bills to cover the repayments for the initial payback period, and for the subsequent 15+ years keep all the savings.

Calculate your likely cost, savings and payback period from installing solar panels given your usage


What are the limitations of solar?

The most obvious downside of solar is perhaps that it is generally not available to renters and it is generally not available to those living in multi-family buildings.

This article explores the issues that are involved and the process of installing solar panels for your home as an SDGE customer.

Of course, the other limitation of solar is that the sun only shines during the day and so it is not on its own a permanent energy source. This is partly the reason why there is now so much interest in battery storage. Energy storage is needed to make intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar and wind usable at times when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing.

This article explores the pros and cons of solar energy generally.

Find more about San Diego Gas & Electric Co (SDGE) electric rate plans.