Q & A with Katie from Solar

Hi all,

My name’s Katie and I work in our solar team. I’m delighted to be answering your questions this week for our first Solar Q&A :sun_with_face:.

Small-scale low-carbon energy generation is key to helping power the UK’s transition to a clean and affordable energy system. Since the closure of the Feed-in Tariff to new applicants, the onus has been on Energy Suppliers to develop a competitive market that moves away from depending on subsidy and allows generators to sell back the units of electricity they don’t use themselves.

Day-to-day the Solar team is involved in managing the payments and processes for our Feed-in Tariff and Export Payments members. We’re constantly striving to make our product better, with our member’s experience at the heart of what we do, and we recently wrote a blog post about what we’ve learnt so far.

We’d love to know what you’d want to see from our Export Payments tariff.

Key improvements on the horizon :sunrise: are being able to take export meter readings remotely, making it even easier for people to be paid for the energy they export. I look forward to hearing your feedback about any other ways you think we can make it better.

If you have any account specific questions we’ll have energy specialists on hand to deal with those too!

Any ideas, questions and feedback add it below. Can’t wait to hear from you…

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I am having problems getting clear advice on how to fit solar PV on Arran where Smart meters are not fitted and mobile signal is poor. I would like to be able to give a meter reading every 3 months and be paid a SEG fee. The regulations ask for an export meter capable of half hourly readings, which is inappropriate in this situation as a reading will be given every 3 months. This seems to be a smart meter capable of half hourly readings
https://www.test-meter.co.uk/emlite-emgsm-1-mid-single-phase-smart-meter/

but this capability would be ignored and a reading taken every 3 months, or a standard better value meter https://www.test-meter.co.uk/emlite-eca2-single-rate-meter/ could be fitted to read the export every 3 months.

Can you please give a clear technical answer on how to set up a new PV system where smart meters are not available and no mobile signal exists.

Ta

To clarify even further, the Isle of Arran has no natural gas supply, so heating, DHW is all by electricity, oil or lpg, getting solar to many all electric households is so beneficial, but again because of the island, smart meters are not yet fitted and no one seems to have a way to agree SEG, FIT was fine and no different from a mainland home.

You can go ahead and install a PV system immediately if you wish - there’s nothing to stop you.

You might not get paid for exporting electricity (for the time being), but you would benefit from reduced electricity bills.

If you have such a PV setup fitted by an MCS (or equivalent) certified installer, then when smart meters do reach Arran (and you get one installed), you can sign up for the SEG at that time, and start receiving payment for any exports.

Ta, but it does not help in answering the question of how to get the correct technology for SEG payments.

Hi @Ralkbirdy

Thanks for getting in touch about solar requiring smart meters.

So the two links you’ve posted are generation meters and will be attached directly to the ‘solar system’ (as it’s called) to record how much the solar panels have generated and supplied to the rest of your property.

From the looks of it it won’t be connected at the grid point so although it has an EXP (export display) it won’t actually be capable of recording how much electricity is being fed back onto the grid.

And as you mention the type of meter must be capable of taking half-hourly measurements, which is a requirement outlined in SEG guidance. Although at the moment, it won’t be possible for us to receive the half-hourly export data remotely, the meter must still have the functionality to measure export half-hourly. To supply us with readings every 3 months we also need this export meter to be configured to record a total export reading.

Receiving export readings remotely requires different parts of the energy industry to work together. We’ve previously outlined how the government needs to provide support to the energy industry so that suppliers like us can build the infrastructure necessary.

To the best of our knowledge, we haven’t come across standalone half-hourly export meters. But an alternative meter could be an AMR meter which we know can record half-hourly and could be configured with a total export reading, it’s worth asking a solar install if they can fit this! As I say it’s not a set up we’ve heard of but you could call around to check this.

The specs you should ask them for should be, “a standalone export meter connected at the grid point, capable of recording on a half-hourly basis, and has a total/cumulative export register”. Pursue this at your peril!

To your second point FIT was based on generation meter readings taken directly from the generation meter and Ofgem didn’t require small generators (30kW or less) to have export meters so the FIT export payments could be estimated.

The SEG is different in that to create a smarter energy system the requirement is to measure the exact amount of export being put onto the grid, which is why a meter capable of measuring this is necessary.

Does sound frustrating though with the set up for Arran, hope the signal improves soon so you can start exporting back onto the grid! Sounds like waiting for smart meters might be more likely than finding an installer who does standalone export meters.

AIUI, the “correct technology” is essentially a smart meter. If, as you suggest, those are not available to be installed in Arran yet†, then you almost certainly can’t get SEG at this time.

† I can’t think of any real technical reasons for this to be the case, even if their full functionality isn’t available (because of comms limitations), only logistical ones. Given the government push to get rid of the old dumb meters, it would seem logical to fit smart ones regardless.

Thank you for your reply, from my simplistic understanding all meters just count, so a generation meter is fitted between the solar inverter and the consumer unit to measure generation but an export meter is fitted between the consumer unit and the meter to read what is exported, so the same meter but placed in a different part of the wiring measuring a different flow of electricity.

This meter
https://www.test-meter.co.uk/emlite-emgsm-1-mid-single-phase-smart-meter/
Is a Smart meter, for AMR

Further monitoring features make the Emlite EMGSM-1 suitable for a range of tasks above and beyond standard smart meter remits. Advanced functions include Time-Of-Use Switching, Power Quality Recording, and Active (kWh) and Reactive (kvarh) energy measurement across both import and export.

Is that not exactly what you are asking for?

Just as you have no answer, neither has any installer got any answer.

So this is a smart meter capable of half hourly readings but will also give a 3 monthly reading which is all that you require from me?

Are you able to agree this and enable me to proceed?

Just to be clear, if you look at the picture of the meter, it says Smart AMR. Yes it would be fitted after the current meter to measure export not generation

Yes, there is no reason why Smart meters cannot be fitted on Arran except that as an island with limited homes a strategic decision has been made not to fit them.

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Hey Katie,

I’ve got quite a general question about solar panels as unfortunately I don’t have any installed in my home yet! What is the average payback time for getting solar panels installed? And do you foresee the price of solar panels decreasing over time as I know the initial cost is pretty high?

Any members with solar panels - do you think the long term benefits have been worth it?

Ryan :grinning:

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Yes solar panel prices are falling, yes they are financially worthwhile, and even more so they are free of any pollution when generating. My electric car is currently sitting outside charging on solar electricity. The greatest reason of all though, has to be free of pollution and no CO2. You need to do your own calculation on the pay back depending on the cost of your scheme and how much power you use during the day time, most power between 10:00 and 16:00. Some similar panels cost £100 up to £240.

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Hey ryan.mcc8

That’s a great question!

It takes ~ 15 years to recoup the cost of solar panels from saving on the bills alone. Although it’s not designed to be a subsidy, payments received through the Smart Export Guarantee will help to quicken the rate at which you see a return on investment.

The capital cost has already decreased significantly over the past 10 years (since the FIT scheme was first introduced), and if solar PV technology continues along the same trend, it’s easy to envision a future where solar is on every rooftop :crossed_fingers:

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I think it’s a lot less than that now. Today, I could buy a self-install 4Kw system kit for about £4.5k (plus my time fitting it), which would essentially eliminate an electricity bill of £600pa. That looks to be a 8 year payback…

So how easy is it for me to switch my plant (currently with eON) to Bulb so that I have everything (consumed and generated)through yourselves?

What is needed and how quickly does it complete (asking as I am about to submit my quarterly reading to eON)

Hi @Ralkbirdy - the meter would be capable of sending half hourly reads, but you’d still need to manually send the reading every three months so as we can’t take the readings automatically for export yet, nor can any supplier we know of. I’d recommend speaking to solar installers about this.

Hello Jim
Yes, as there is no mobile accessible signal it will require a manual reading, just as I do for my Bulb power use meter, they will sit next to each other so easily done. Eventually when someone decides it is time to fit Smart meters on Arran, then both meters can be discarded.

A 4kW system can produce 4,000kWh per year if no shading, it could cost £4,500, if you used all the power you would save £600 at 15p/unit, if you used none you would get SEG of 5p/unit £200. So be clear how you are going to use your power genrrated.

That’s good to know!

There’s lot of factors to consider when looking at the buyback period but there’s some tools online such as this calculator which might give a more accurate indication.

Hi squirrels

Welcome back to community!

Switching your FIT to Bulb typically takes 3-6 weeks. We’ll need to talk to your current energy supplier to make the switch happen. So you should submit this quarter’s reading to E.ON if you’re due to now.

To switch over to Bulb you can fill in the application form here - you’ll need to log into your Bulb account to access the form. If we receive your application soon we will have you switched over in time for the next quarterly payment round :+1:

My PV installation was commissioned the day before the FiT was slashed in March 2012, and it paid me back (ignoring lost interest on the investment) in a bit over 6 years in FiT alone, i.e. not including my reduced consumption from the grid (since that isn’t measured). I know that “past performance is no guide to the future”, but costs and incentives are changing all the time, and this may be useful for comparison purposes.