Ok, ok, so Saint Paul doesn’t have a buzzword-compliant “smart grid” but I did at least have digital meters which the utility could read via some proprietary RF signal.
So why, now that I have solar panels, a production meter, and a bidirectional meter for my house, does Xcel dispatch a human meter-reader out in a car to walk to the back of my house and copy numbers off the meters? Given that even average driving uses the equivalent of about 40kWh/day, this is not the effect I hoped my solar panels would have.
On the bright side, I used 270kWh last month and produced 308kWh, my first month of over-production. (Bright, clear October days, and no need for fans, AC, or heat!). So not only did I avoid $27.00 on the electricity bill ($0.10/kWh, $0.07/kWh + $0.03/kWh for wind costs) I’ll get a credit of about $3.50 ($0.09/kWh paid by the utility for the small net production) – at this rate I’ll have these things paid off in … oh, well, here’s hoping for rate increases ;)
And how do you go about using only 270 kWh during a month?
Were you even at home?
My family of 4 was home for all but 4 days, yes…
Probably the thing that kicked off the reduction was simply paying attention; graphing out my monthly bill to see what direction we were going, and trying to make it go down. There are plenty of ways to do this monitoring; it’s almost fun.
I did a lot of things, but these come to mind (I’ll edit to add some links later when I have time)
Didn’t use the electric clothes dryer once.
Used CFL lighting wherever possible.
Religiously turned off things which were not in use.
Connected everything on the A/V rack to the switched outlet on the receiver.
Made my always-on PC low-power (40W) by using laptop drives, 80Plus PS, and cpu throttling.
Made my MythTV box and Mac Mini sleep when not in use.
Got a very efficient (but not expensive) refrigerator.
Do use an electric stove.
Do use an electric dishwasher.
Do have 2 (small) refrigerators.
So it’s not like we’re living quite like hermits.
That’s about it; I’d recommend paying attention to your utility bill for 6 months, and getting a Kill-a-Watt to find out what each always-on thing uses, and get to it. We cut our electricity usage in half; it’s been an effort, but a fun one. More info here …
Eric is right: You don’t have to live like a hermit/caveperson to do 270 kWh per month. We used 280 kWh in October, with a family of 4 (OK, our kids are 4 and 6, not teens). We pretty much are doing what Eric is doing. The dryer is a big killer (if you’ve got an electric one), so hanging clothes, even some of them, can really, really help. CFLs help too. We’ve got an electric range, a dishwasher, and a pretty old fridge (2003ish) that’s certainly not energy efficient, and we’re still able to stay somewhere between 240 and 300 kWh for most months.
I was surprised to hear your new meter wasn’t read wirelessly, so I checked with the Solar*Rewards program manager. He said our current contract with Cellnet doesn’t include wireless reading of bi-directional meters, but we’re working toward having that capability in the near future.
Glad to hear you’re enjoying your PV! I’m a Solar*Rewards customer too. This is the first time in my life where I actually look forward to getting our energy bills. It makes me happy to see our system’s production and the recent energy efficiency measures translate into low bills.
Sheila, thanks for the followup!
I sure hope that gets resolved soon, that must be quite an expense (for Xcel) for solar customers.