So­lar panel homes face smart me­ter chaos

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Sam Mead­ows and Katie Mor­ley

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.”

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