How to Read an Electric Bill in Oregon & Washington

How to read an electric bill in oregon and washington

Electricity rates are rising across Oregon and Washington, prompting many people to take a closer look at their electricity bills. However, many families find it difficult to read the power bills for various reasons. 

The cost structure can be confusing, and many homes are charged different prices for electricity depending on the time of day or their total energy usage. Also, some people are confused by the terminology used on their power bills. For example, what the heck is a kilowatt-hour of electricity, and why are there tier 1 and tier 2 power rates?

Although power bills vary depending on the provider, they also share common characteristics. Let’s examine how to decipher your electricity bills so you are in the know the next time one arrives. 


Paying a bill

What info is listed on my electric bill?

Regardless of the provider, most residential electricity bills in Oregon and Washington list standard information. In addition, some power bills also include charges for water or natural gas. 

Electricity Usage

Electric utilities determine how much energy you have consumed based on your meter reading. Residential electricity use is measured in kilowatt-hours. In Oregon, the average home consumes 916-kilowatt hours monthly, and in Washington State, the average household uses 969-kilowatt hours. However, this amount will likely increase as households switch from gasoline-power cars to electric vehicles.

Some power bills in Oregon and Washington give further information on your home energy use, such as monthly electricity use for a year, average daily kilowatt hours of use, and average temperature. This information can provide insights into how to budget properly and reduce your energy consumption. For example, you might realize that your summer power bills are much higher due to air conditioning use and devise strategies to decrease it while staying comfortable.

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Account Summary

This information tells you your current balance, new changes, and payment terms for late payments. Many offer a grace period on late payments of around ten days. This information is critical for making payments.


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Electricity Charges

There are several different charges on your monthly power bill. The supply charge corresponds with home much electricity you consume and is the lion’s share of most power bills in Oregon and Washington. The exception would be a home that is not occupied but has electric service, such as a vacation home that is not in use. However, the rate of power will often vary depending on different factors. If you install a solar power system, you can eliminate your electricity supply charges.

Utility providers often charge a higher rate for electricity over a certain amount of energy over a certain number of kilowatt hours. For example, Puget Sound Energy charges a lower rate for the first 600 kilowatt hours and then a higher rate for electricity exceeding 600-kilowatt hours. 

This is known as a tiered rate structure and is often listed on a power bill as tier 1 and tier 2. Having tiered rates helps promote energy efficiency and is designed to encourage customers to conserve power.

Power companies also charge a monthly delivery fee. Even if you have a solar panel system, you will still need to pay the monthly delivery charge. Puget Sound Energy charged $7.50 a month, and Pacific Power charged $9.50 in delivery fees for homes to have electric service in 2022. This money is used to maintain the electric distribution systems and to prevent power outages.


Solar Energy Credits

If you have a solar energy system on your home or you are a member of a community solar farm, you will receive solar energy credits on your bill. Due to net metering programs, electric companies compensate customers for the solar power they feed to the grid. If you have a solar system on your home, it will lower your bill in two ways. 

It will decrease the amount of electricity you draw from the power grid, resulting in lower electricity meter readings. Your home will first use solar power when it is available and then draw power from the grid at night or in cloudy weather. 

Secondly, you will get credits for the solar power you supply to the grid when you create more electricity than your home consumes. Usually, these solar credits are valid for 12 months, so you don’t have to use them up in each billing cycle.

For example, you may produce more solar energy than your home needs in the summer months, when we have lots of sunny weather in Oregon and Washington. However, your home might need more power than your solar panels generate in the winter months when the days are shorter. Thus, the surplus solar credits you saved up during the summer can offset your winter energy use. 

Solar energy credits, like supply charges, are measured in kilowatt-hours. Each kilowatt hour your supply helps offset one that you will use later.

To learn more about installing a solar system on your home, contact Smart Solar Energy today. We are a trusted solar energy company serving Oregon and Washington that can help you virtually eliminate your energy bills!


Frequently Asked Questions About Power Bills in Oregon & Washington

Many Smart Solar Energy customers find electricity bills confusing. We are here to help demystify them.

How much does electricity cost in Oregon?

The average residential cost per kWh of electricity in Oregon is 14 cents, but it varies by the power company. The average monthly electricity bill in Oregon is $125. Unfortunately, electricity rates are increasing across Oregon and the United States due to numerous factors, plus future power rate hikes are likely. Many Oregonians will have higher energy bills as a result, effective January 1, 2023.

For example, Portland General Electric (PGE) will raise rates by about 6%, which is about an $8 increase for a typical home. However, Pacific Power will increase electricity rates by a whopping 15%. Thus, a typical home using 900 kWh of electricity would see a $20 increase. 

“Unfortunately, fuel cost increases and supply chain delays caused by global events, combined with increasing volatility in regional electricity markets, drive the price for utilities to produce and purchase electricity,” Megan Decker, chair of the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

In addition, some utility companies, such as PGE, offer time-of-use (TOU) rate plans. This means the electricity rate varies depending on the time of day and even the season. During times of peak electricity demand, the power company charges higher prices. When electricity demand is lower, it charges off-peak rates. PGE’s on-peak rates are 22.2 cents per kWh, and its off-peak rate is just 4.1 cents per kWh.

Adjust your thermostat

How much does electricity cost in Washington?

The average Washington household pays about $122 on their monthly electric bills or about $1,464 yearly, which is increasing due to rate hikes. Like Oregon, electricity rates are also increasing in Washington. 

For example, Puget Sound Electric is increasing its rates by 8.7% in 2023 after long negotiations with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. It had initially requested a 12.9% increase in 2023, but a rate of 8.7% was approved. Thus, the average Puget Sound Electric bill will increase by almost $8 monthly, which is close to $100 a year. Seattle City Lights rates will increase by 5.7% in 2023, resulting in an estimated $4 increase in the average monthly power bill.

What company provides electricity to my Oregon home?

There are many electric utility companies in Oregon that serve different areas. The easiest way to determine the power and gas company serving your home or business is to use this map on the Oregon Department of Energy website. 


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Here is information on some of the largest electric utility companies in Oregon:

  • PGE has a large service area that serves 900,000 customers and includes most of Portland, part of Salem, plus many other cities and towns, including Beaverton, Gresham, Oregon City, and Woodburn.
  • Pacific Power serves many communities across Oregon, including part of Portland, Lincoln City, Klamath Falls, and Medford. 
  • Eugene Water and Electric (EWEB) provides power to Eugene and parts of east Springfield, and the McKenzie River Valley area.


What company provides electricity to my Washington home?

Washington State has three investor-owned utility companies, which are Puget Sound Energy, Avista, and Pacific Power. So, the remainder of Washington’s electric utilities are operated by municipalities (including Seattle, Tacoma, and Ellensburg), public utility districts (PUDs), rural electric cooperatives, and tribes.

Here are some of Washington’s largest utilities:

  • Puget Sound Energy serves 1.1 million electric customers in Western Washington, primarily in the Puget Sound area. It has a corporate office in Bellvue, Washington.
  • Avista serves parts of eastern Washington and is headquartered in Spokane, Washington.
  • Pacific Power serves some Washington communities, including Yakima and Astoria. 
  • Seattle City Lights service much of Seattle, Washington, and is owned by the City of Seattle.


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How can I lower my electricity bill?

The two best ways to reduce your utility bills are to use less electricity through greater energy efficiency or to switch to solar power. In fact, a solar PV system can completely eliminate the supply charges on your electricity bill, lowering your electric bills to between about $8 and $15 a month for delivery charges. 


Is Getting Home Solar With Battery Backup A Good Idea?

Many Smart Solar Energy customers save around $100 or more dollars per billing period and around $1,200 a year due to solar panels. However, as electricity rates increase, so do solar energy savings. 

We install high-quality solar systems that are designed to produce clean energy for 25 to 30 years. Solar energy systems are one of the few home improvements that pay for themselves in savings. Once they do, you will enjoy many years of free solar power.

The best way to get started using solar power is to get a free solar estimate from us. We install renewable energy systems across Oregon and Washington State and have thousands of satisfied customers.


How will my power bill change after installing a solar panel system?

Once your solar system is producing energy, and it is connected to the power grid, you can expect your bills to go down significantly. In addition, you will start seeing solar credits on your bill, plus your power usage will go down significantly. For example, if you run a load of laundry or your air conditioner during a sunny day, your solar system will supply the power, resulting in lower power usage on your bill.


Will installing solar panels eliminate my power bills?

Smart Solar Energy customers pay dramatically less on their monthly electric bills, but there is still a flat fee that they are assessed by the power company each month to have electric service. Only homes with off-grid solar systems pay no monthly fees to the power company. However, we don’t recommend most households be off-grid unless they are located far from the utility grid.

If you install a solar system that provides all the power that you consume throughout the year, your power bills will be between $8 and $15 a month in most areas of Oregon and Washington. That means that instead of paying $100 or $150 a month, you’ll pay just around $10.

Electricity rates are on the rise in Oregon and Washington, prompting increased scrutiny of power bills. Many families find it challenging to understand the bills due to complex cost structures, varying prices based on time of day or energy usage, and confusing terminology. Regardless of the provider, residential electricity bills share common elements such as account summary, electricity charges, and information on electricity usage. The bills include details about consumption measured in kilowatt-hours and may offer insights into energy usage patterns. Additional charges, such as tiered rates and delivery fees, contribute to the overall cost.

At Smart Solar Energy, our goal is to make it easy to go solar. Contact us to learn more about how much you can save on your energy bills.

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