Solar panel homes face smart meter chaos
HOUSEHOLDS with solar panels risk being overcharged on their energy bills if they have a smart meter fitted, it can be revealed.
Some have seen bills more than treble after smart meters were installed. This is because, while the two devices are capable of working together, energy firms say they are unable to access correct information about excess energy being generated by people’s solar panels. It means nearly a million households in Britain with solar panels on their homes could face billing chaos or being excluded from the Government’s roll-out of smart meters.
EON and npower refuse to install smart meters in homes where there are solar panels. Other energy companies, including British Gas, are doing so, but this has resulted in billing issues for some customers, who have ended up having their smart meters removed.
The Daily Telegraph can also reveal that energy firms are working with the Government to develop an urgent fix to make the two energy saving “green” schemes function together without penalising consumers.
It is just the latest in a string of technical woes affecting the £11bn roll-out of smart meters to every home in Britain by 2020. One British Gas customer paying £17 a month for energy said his payment trebled to £44 after getting a smart meter. He complained and the meter was eventually removed and replaced with digital meter, after which he says his bills returned to normal.
Billing problems are arising for households with solar panels because they are paid for energy generated by the devices based on half of their estimated energy usage.
But under Ofgem licensing rules energy firms must pay homes the exact amount of energy they export if they have a smart meter. Although smart meters are capable of getting accurate readings, some firms say they are unable to access this information because the network that connects them to people’s smart meters cannot provide accurate export data. This means they must either pay an estimated amount or send someone to read the customer’s smart meter.
A source at one energy firm said: “The received wisdom is that people would be a lot worse off [if they get a smart meter] because this deemed amount is pretty generous.
“If you are using most of the energy you generate then you could be making quite a significant profit.”
An Ofgem spokesman said it was aware some energy firms were using estimates rather than actual amounts for households’ energy sent to the grid.
He said: “We expect suppliers to work to resolve this issue.”
A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesman blamed energy firms, saying: “Smart meters are compatible with microgeneration, including solar panels.”