Guide to TECO solar programs in 2022

Updated

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Image source: Tampa Electric Company

Tampa Electric Company, known to its customers as TECO, loves solar power. In fact, the company says that solar power will make up 14% of its energy mix by 2023, which is very impressive. TECO also offers programs that allow its customers to directly support solar power. 

TECO’s Sun Select and net metering programs are available in 2022. Unfortunately, these programs are not created equally, and the better of the two may be changing soon. Sun Select allows customers to directly support solar energy in TECO territory, but it currently costs people extra on their monthly bills in order to participate. TECO's net metering program offers great potential for savings, but due to a law recently passed by the state legislature, it may go away as soon as December 2023.

The reason to care about these programs is simple: TECO is raising its rates, and every time they do, your energy gets more expensive… unless you have solar panels on your roof! Read on to learn more about these two solar programs to see if one may be right for you!

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TECO's solar programs at a glance

  • TECO offers two programs to help its customers take advantage of solar power: Sun Select and net metering.
  • The Sun Select program allows any TECO customer to pay a fixed rate for solar energy rather than their usual fuel charge, and to participate in the program for any number of years.
  • Unfortunately, the Sun Select solar cost is currently higher than the fuel charge, and participants might never save money in the program.
  • Net metering is a way for Florida solar installation owners to reduce their monthly bills based on the amount of electricity their solar panels generate.
  • TECO’s net metering program is available to people who own or lease solar panels and have them installed on their property.
  • Out of the two solar programs, going solar with net metering is a much better deal for eligible TECO customers.

TECO Sun Select Program 

The Sun Select program is TECO’s way of offering all its customers the chance to directly support renewable energy, without the upfront cost of installing their own solar panels. It works by replacing the fuel charge of your monthly electricity bill with a new solar charge. Energy for the program is produced by TECO at the Lake Hancock Solar project in West Central Florida.

The initial solar charge is larger than the fuel charge, but the solar charge is designed to stay the same forever, and TECO says that it could lead to future savings if - and when - the fuel charge increases to more than the current solar charge.

The current charge for the program is 6.3 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), compared to the fuel charge of about 2.9 cents to 3.9 cents per kWh. Participants can choose whether they want to offset 25%, 50%, or 100% of their monthly usage with solar energy.

Here’s an example of how it works: a person who offsets 100% of a 1,000 kWh monthly bill will end up paying an additional $34 that month. If TECO’s fuel charge ends up increasing to 5 cents per kWh, that additional monthly charge would drop to $17 (more on the likelihood of this below).

Who can participate? 

Anyone can participate, which means the Sun Select program can reach people who don’t own their own home or have a shady roof (two major prohibitors of installing rooftop solar panels). 

The program does not come with a commitment, but the possibility of savings can only be achieved by staying in the program over a long period of time.

Is Sun Select a good deal? 

Well, that depends on what you think is going to happen with fuel charges over the next 20 years or so. We can report that the fuel charge has barely budged in TECO territory between 2010 and 2022, however the company is raising rates for the next few years. 

Unfortunately, those rate increases are partially coming in a new “Clean Energy Transition Mechanism” charge on customers’ bills. That means that although the rates will increase, the fuel charge will not, and those in the Sun Select program won’t see any change in their charges.

Not exactly a way to inspire us about the future savings potential of this program. 

TECO net metering 

Net metering is a billing arrangement that allows homeowners to receive credit for the excess energy their solar installations generate that don’t wind up getting used in the home.

When a customer’s solar panels generate more electricity than the customer uses from the grid during a given month, they earn a credit on the next month's bill equal to the full retail value of the excess electricity. TECO offers net metering to all of its customers, subject to the state law that requires it. 

Below, solar expert Will White further explains how net metering works:

The net metering program is the number one way people who get solar panels can save money. Unfortunately, the Florida legislature has recently passed a law that directs the state Public Service Commission to change net metering, which will open the door for TECO to offer less money in exchange for that excess solar energy generated by solar panels.

This means if you want to take advantage of TECO net metering, the way to ensure that you’ll get the best rates is to get a completed solar installation on your roof by the end of 2023.

Who can participate in net metering? 

The downside of net metering is that it’s only available to people who own or lease solar systems. That means people who live in apartments, mobile homes, and rental homes cannot qualify. 

Is net metering a good deal? 

The answer to this question has a lot to do with how much you pay for solar panels, and how much you expect to save.

Net metering can be a very good deal in Florida, but it all depends on the installation company you choose. Solar costs vary widely between installation companies, so your best bet is to get multiple quotes and compare between them. 

See what local solar companies are charging for solar system installations

For solar to make sense, look for a simple payback of around 10-12 years, based on the upfront cost and expected energy production and savings. Or look for a long-term loan from a reputable company that offers fixed monthly payments that start out lower than your current energy bill.

Learn more: Top 6 solar financing companies

Does TECO offer rebates and other incentives for solar panels? 

No, TECO doesn’t currently offer any direct incentives to reduce the cost of solar panels. However, all Floridians can apply for the federal solar tax credit, and there are property and sales tax exemptions for solar panels in Florida, as well.

Bottom line: what’s the best TECO solar program? 

Without a doubt, net metering is the better deal. If you sign up for Sun Select, you’re not guaranteed to ever save money, and you won’t own anything. Instead, you’ll pay a monthly subscription fee that you’ll hope will someday be less than the savings from your subscribed solar.

With net metering, you’ll save the full retail rate for every kWh your panels generate. Average payback time in Florida is around 12 years for upfront cash solar purchases, and long-term financing can keep your solar payments under what you would have paid for energy from TECO, all while building home value and protecting the environment.

 - Author of Solar Reviews

Ben Zientara

Solar Policy Analyst and Researcher

Ben is a writer, researcher, and data analysis expert who has worked for clients in the sustainability, public administration, and clean energy sectors.

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