Smart meters and PV solar panels

Hi @“Eleanor at Bulb” or anyone else with the answer

Will customers with PV Solar panels be able to get a smart meter from Bulb? Do you have any such customers included in your initial smart meter testing?

+ Smart Meter = Sorry no or Of course, Bulb are on it!

What is your concern regarding smart meters and solar PV?

What you’ve seen in the news about them being “incompatible” is, largely, due to a misunderstanding about how metering works.

It would be good to have some discussion on the subject. I don’t have solar PV myself, but I do know a bit about it simply due to an interest in the subject and particularly related to metering.

When I made enquiries about getting a smart meter from a previous supplier (E-ON) I was told customers with PV systems would not be part of their initial rollout, no reason given and no information about when they would be included.

Will the smart meters supplied by Bulb monitor and record “exported power” and contrary to some media reports about some suppliers charge for this exported power?

Sharing any knowledge about how metering works and why this means they would be compatible with PV systems would be appreciated

Also is it likely that the introduction of smart meters with change the way that exported power is paid for, i.e. payment currently based on assumption that 50% of produced power is exported…

All good questions. I’ve read about the E-ON thing and frankly it makes no sense at all. Many of the issues are related specifically to the individual supplier software and billing systems, and nothing to do with smart meters per se. Let me first, for others reading this thread, summarise how solar PV works in terms of payments for local electricity generation. This is just my understanding, and I’m more than open to any corrections on anything I have wrong.

When you install solar panels on your roof, you become a small-scale renewable generator. The panels are connected through a meter which measures the total energy produced by the panels. You get paid a unit price per kWh generated as logged by the generation meter, and also a second lower price based on assumption that 50% of that energy has been fed into the grid with the remainder used by your property locally. This assumption is made because most installations do not have a meter that is capable of measuring how much is actually exported to the grid. The feed in tariff (FiT) scheme for new installation of small-scale renewables is going to close on 31st March 2019, after which it is uncertain how generation will be paid, if at all. Historically the FiT has been very generous, and anyone that didn’t cover their roof with panels 15 years ago will be deeply regretting it now. Sadly I am one of them.

So what’s the issue with import/export metering? That depends on what type of meter you have.

Many people still have an old analogue style meter with dials and a spinning disc. When solar PV is installed, these meters can run backwards when there is a net export from the property. This is great for the comsumer, since it means on top of all the FiT payments they are also effectively getting paid a third time at their import rate for the exported energy. Unfortunately it is also illegal. The property owner is supposed to notify the supplier if they have a meter that runs backwards when they have solar PV installed, so that the meter can be replaced. There is politics around this as to whos real responsibility it is to ensure the equipment provided by the energy supplier is fit for purpose, and I wont go into that in any more detail here.

Digital meters, whether dumb or smart, do not run backwards when there is a net export. If they are not capable of measuring the actual exported amount, they at least just do nothing at all when exporting. When some customers with solar PV have had their old meter changed for a newer one that doesn’t run backwards, it results in their energy bills going up because they are no longer getting the extra discount on their imported energy by winding the clock back. This has generally been reported in the media as the new meters being “not compatible with solar panels” but that’s the wrong way around. It’s the old meters that are not compatible and do the wrong thing. The new meters are now doing the right thing and measuring everything correctly. Obviously when there is a fault that is to the benefit of the consumer, those people tend to get more annoyed about it being fixed than if it were the other way around.

It does seem there are rare instances of a new meter being installed that really does not work with solar panels. Some meters seem to be unable to distinguish between import and export, and they increment their import counter no matter which direction the energy is flowing. So you’re out all day leaving your 3kW array to export to the grid, only to find you’re getting billed as if you had left the kettle running all day every day. I don’t have any more info about this, and I’d be interested if anyone can add anything. Are there really some meters that have been designed to be this daft, or were they just faulty?

There is one final complication when installing smart meters at properties with solar PV. Most (all?) smart meters are capable of metering both import and export separately. For example, my Elster AS300P clearly has Total Cumulative Import and Total Cumulative Export registers when I step through the menus, in addition to the separate time-of-use import registers. This means that when a customer gets a smart meter installed, they now have an export meter. When you have an export meter, the “50% deemed export” we discussed at the start no longer applied, because you now know exactly how much you export. If you export more than 50% then the smart meter is beneficial, since you can now get paid for the full export. If you export less than 50%, because you have say an immersion heater or battery storage to make use of all your local generation, then you’ll lose out because again you’ll only get paid for your actual export instead of 50%. In practise it seems that many energy suppliers just ignore this rule and continue to pay out the 50% deemed export. The reason being they apparently can’t read the export register from the smart meter, and/or their billing software isn’t written to cope with actual export data.

How does any of this apply to Bulb? So far we know that they will be using EDMI as their SMETS2 meter manufacturer and Chameleon their IHD provider. From this we can assume that the meter is almost certainly going to be an ES-10A, and the datasheet can be found here. Under “Measured Values” we can see that it measures all four of the important variables: Active and Reactive energy, both Import and Export. So it will work just fine with microgeneration, just like any smart meter as far as I’m aware.

The last piece of the puzzle is reading and billing. Will Bulb be able to read the export register? Will these data be passed to the FiT billing system for correct export payment? Perhaps @“Daniel at Bulb” or @“Selina at Bulb” might be able to give us some insight to the code they’re developing.

What happens after 31st March 2019 for new installations? Perhaps @“Eleanor at Bulb” or @“Caroline W at Bulb” might know something about whether they intend to offer any export tariffs once the FiT scheme is closed.

@Hooloovoo thanks for your detailed and clear explanation of the issues, hopefully someone from Bulb will be able to help supply some answers.

Thanks @hoovooloo, you’ve really helped out @SeanT here.

Sorry that it’s taken a few days to get back to you. I’ve got some, but not all, the answers. Partly because we’re still working on it ourselves.

Yes, we can record exported power on our SMETS2 meters. We’re currently double checking with the metering company whether we’ll be able to install a smart meter at a house with panels.

We plan to test one of our new SMETS2 with solar PV in January. Once we know it’s working, we’ll be able to roll them out for some of our members to try. We want to make sure that having a smart meter installed doesn’t interfere with the export data from solar panels.

One of the things we are figuring out is how to measure the exported power. Because some homes will be importing and exporting power, it can cause a bit of confusion.

Say you are generating 2kwh in a half hourly meter, then using 1kwh, your export reading would show as 1kwh. But your generation meter from the panels will record as 2kwh.

Hoovooloo is right, one option is to assume 50%. But this is something our FiT team will be working on. I’ll get back to you with more details on this and our plan for March 2019 when I can.

Feel free to give me a prod if I keep you waiting too long!

One of the things we are figuring out is how to measure the exported power. Because some homes will be importing and exporting power, it can cause a bit of confusion.

Say you are generating 2kwh in a half hourly meter, then using 1kwh, your export reading would show as 1kwh. But your generation meter from the panels will record as 2kwh.

That doesn’t really matter. Once you have an export meter, the total generation meter becomes irrelevant to export billing. Once the FiT expires it’ll be irrelevant to billing completely.

Essentially all you need is a tariff that has both import and export rates. i.e., 13p per kWh import, 6p per kWh export. Then you take both the import and export readings and bill them both in exactly the same way, just at the different rates. Easy peasy.

If I generate 9kWh on a sunny day, and use all of it to power my home and charge up my home battery, then my total import and export for that day will be zero. i.e., neither register on the meter will increment. I pay no import fee, and earn no export fee. It doesn’t matter that the generation meter says 9kWh.

For your specific example, if I generate and export 2kWh then the export meter increments by 2kWh. If it then goes dark and I use 1kWh, the import meter increments by 1kWh. The meter can also handle cloudy conditions where you might fluctuate between a net import and a net export. Basically the meter does it all for you, it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Hoovooloo is right, one option is to assume 50%. But this is something our FiT team will be working on. I'll get back to you with more details on this and our plan for March 2019 when I can.

That’s not an option. As I understand it, once you have an export meter you’re not allowed to work on 50% deemed export any more. But as I said, that hasn’t stopped some suppliers carrying on because they don’t have the software to cope with true export metering. They may well get in trouble with the regulator eventually.

I have Solar PV, with its own generation meter, so get paid based on 50% deemed export via my FIT supplier (Not my energy supplier)

I have a smart meter (the same one in the OP…), which measures export fine. My supplier (not currently Bulb) does nothing with that data, and they don’t offer a FIT tariff anyway.

There are people who are reluctant to have a smart meter as they don’t want to eventually lose the deemed 50% payment, as they may be exporting much less, closer to 0% if they have a home battery…

Some great info and discussion in this thread… It does make me a little bit sad that the smart meters are essentially going to remove further subsidy from solar, and especially from batteries. We recently had solar panels installed, and are waiting on our Tesla Powerwall. With the FiT being so low and coming to an end soon it wouldn’t be ideal to lose the 50% deemed export rate, although I can’t really blame Bulb for wanting to do that.

I read up some details of the EDF equivalent for storage batteries (Powervault) where amongst their FAQs was a note that changes were being made to allow for the deemed 50% FIT payments to continue, irrespective of the export figure shown by a Smart Meter, or the amount of solar generated power you store in your battery.

I read up some details of the EDF equivalent for storage batteries (Powervault) where amongst their FAQs was a note that changes were being made to allow for the deemed 50% FIT payments to continue, irrespective of the export figure shown by a Smart Meter, or the amount of solar generated power you store in your battery.

More news on this here:

https://www.solar-trade.org.uk/press-release-ofgem-clarification-removes-barrier-to-battery-storage-for-900000-solar-homes/

Updated technical guidance by Ofgem has been released, that clarifies the treatment of existing payments for homes that currently export solar power to the grid and that want to install battery storage and smart meters. The clarification is good news for existing solar homes looking to invest in battery storage alongside a smart meter because it means they will continue to be eligible to keep their ‘deemed’ [estimated] [2] payments for their solar exports. The market had previously been hindered by conflicting guidance.

While the explanation published is complex and would benefit from greater clarity, from conversations with Ofgem the STA is confident the updated configurations published means that, in practice, where a domestic customer already has FIT-accredited solar and wishes to install battery storage behind a smart meter, they can now retain their deemed export payments provided that the usual requirements to quality for deemed export are met. [i.e. under 30kW, with a bidirectional generation meter for DC-coupled units etc.].

The STA wants to see the smart meter roll-out temporarily decoupled from the requirement to move to metered export while complex regulatory & admin barriers are removed and half hourly settlement is rolled out. Complications can arise for solar homes that install a smart meter with the push to metered export payments, a requirement which in the view of the STA should therefore not yet be enforced.

As indicated elsewhere, I re-started my supply switch to Bulb ten days ago, completes 26th. I have now also completed the FIT switch form, but could not quote the generation meter number as my photograph was too blurred. I will send that by email when I get the Bulb email confirming the switch. (I have SMETS1 meters from First:Utility at present, and have signed up for the smart metering trial too).

As indicated elsewhere, I re-started my supply switch to Bulb ten days ago, completes 26th. I have now also completed the FIT switch form, but could not quote the generation meter number as my photograph was too blurred. I will send that by email when I get the Bulb email confirming the switch. (I have SMETS1 meters from First:Utility at present, and have signed up for the smart metering trial too).

Hi Arthur. This is completely unrelated to thread topic you’ve posted on. Did you read the thread prior to posting?

You’ll need to contact Bulb directly with your query, if you have one. This forum is mostly used by other Bulb customers and we can do nothing regarding your account or application.

As indicated elsewhere, I re-started my supply switch to Bulb ten days ago, completes 26th. I have now also completed the FIT switch form, but could not quote the generation meter number as my photograph was too blurred. I will send that by email when I get the Bulb email confirming the switch. (I have SMETS1 meters from First:Utility at present, and have signed up for the smart metering trial too).

Hi @arthur255

Thanks for letting us know. I’ve left a note on your account to say that you’ll send through a new picture.

Other thread confirms FIT switch complete, but due to an unexpected problem reading Secure Liberty meters (SMETS1 DCC- compliant) I may be switching the supply back to Shell

Now my FIT switch is complete, will I be asked for quarterly generation readings? I can’t yet see anywhere to submit them, but maybe it is not yet set up?

UPDATE: The page to send FIT readings has now appeared.

This is a very informative thread, however it doesn’t appear to me that the final question from Hooloovoo actually got answered,

“What happens after 31st March 2019 for new installations? Perhaps @Eleanor at Bulb or @Caroline W at Bulb might know something about whether they intend to offer any export tariffs once the FiT scheme is closed”

I have just requested a switch from EON to Bulb. I have an AS300P smart meter which as Hooloovoo says looks like it is capable of distinguishing between imported and exported kWh. I do not currently have any installed PV solar panels but am interested in the topic.

It appears the government is still concluding its consultation about a possible SEG (Smart Export Guarantee) (https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-future-for-small-scale-low-carbon-generation) to replace the FiT that closed to new applicants on 31st March 2019.

Which then leaves you trying to understand where you stand now if you consider installing a new solar PV system.
Does bulb buy back any excess locally generated energy in the absence of FiT?
If so, is this based on a 50% of solar generated power, or on actually metered exported kWh?
If based, on actual metered exported kWh, can this use smart meters such as my AS300P smart meter or does it require installation of the EDMI and Landis+Gyr second-generation smart meters referred to in another thread?
Is it possible to have an agreement with one of the larger energy companies for generated/exported energy whilst using Bulb as your energy supplier (as I believe was the case with the FiT)?

These are all much the same question as Hooloovoo’s question.
Is there any advice from Bulb as to whether it is going to be better to wait till the government concludes its SEG consultation before opting for a new solar PV installation or is it still worth it in this period of limbo between the old and any new potential scheme?

Does Bulb have an update to the very good info provided by @hooloovoo earlier in the thread. I am just scoping out an install with PV panels for my home and have come up against this question of what smart meter to include (or whether to avoid one for now).

Hello,

Just to let you know that I have Solar PV (FiT via bulb) and Economy 7. I had a smart meter installed last week and it’s all working nicely.
This image of the In Home Display shows that I am generating all my own supply and feeding in a small excess to the grid too.

I understand that I will still need to supply my FiT tariff reading manually.