‘Smart me­ter is charg­ing me for power my so­lar pan­els gen­er­ate’

The me­ters don’t work with re­new­able en­ergy sources, this house­holder tells

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Money Makeover -

Smart me­ters and so­lar pan­els are in­com­pat­i­ble and can even cause house­hold­ers to pay for elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated by so­lar pan­els rather than re­ceiv­ing money for it, cus­tomers and re­searchers have said. The lat­est gen­er­a­tion of util­ity me­ters, which come with an in-home dis­play that shows your en­ergy use in real time, are be­ing heav­ily pushed by the Gov­ern­ment, with eye-catch­ing ad­verts on TV, cinema screens and pub­lic trans­port.

But Robert Brown, 71, from Hast­ings, is convinced that his smart me­ter is charg­ing him for en­ergy gen­er­ated by his so­lar pan­els. His provider, Scot­tish Power, in­stalled the me­ter in June and since then, he said, his recorded us­age and bills have in­creased.

He said he had been on hol­i­day for much of Au­gust and, there­fore, ex­pected his us­age to have fallen compared with sim­i­lar pe­ri­ods last year. How­ever, the op­po­site had been the case. Scot­tish Power de­nied that there was a com­pat­i­bil­ity is­sue but of­fered to send an en­gi­neer to as­sess the me­ter, free of charge. An om­buds­man also ruled against Mr Brown, sug­gest­ing that his old me­ter may have been faulty and un­der-record­ing his us­age.

Re­search by con­sumer group Which? has found that more than half of home own­ers with so­lar pan­els have run into prob­lems af­ter the in­stal­la­tion of smart me­ters.

“Of the 18pc who had a smart elec­tric­ity me­ter fit­ted, more than half (53pc) told us they’d had prob­lems with mea­sur­ing elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated and ex­ported since their smart me­ter was in­stalled,” Which? said.

Chris Platt, a de­signer at Leeds So­lar, an in­stal­la­tion firm, said it was pos­si­ble that Mr Brown’s me­ter had been in­cor­rectly in­stalled, al­though he said the chances of this hav­ing hap­pened were very small.

“The smart me­ter should es­sen­tially just ig­nore the so­lar panel,” he said. “All he would no­tice from the smart me­ter is that he is us­ing less en­ergy over the year. It’s very un­likely the me­ter has been wired in wrongly.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Which? re­search, sev­eral en­ergy providers, in­clud­ing E.ON and Npower, do not cur­rently in­stall smart me­ters where there are so­lar pan­els be­cause of tech­ni­cal is­sues. SSE says it will in­stall them, but ad­vises cus­tomers to “wait un­til tech­ni­cal con­straints are re­solved”.

Bri­tish Gas has in­stalled four mil­lion smart me­ters, more than any other provider, but be­gan to in­stall them in homes with so­lar pan­els only in May. A spokesman said this was ow­ing to a dis­play is­sue that was con­fus­ing cus­tomers, but in­sisted there was no chance they could have been over­charged.

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