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Energy companies confuse customers over export meters for feed-in tariff

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 28 April 2011 at 9:44 am

Most of the energy companies we contacted gave the wrong advice when asked about export meters for the domestic feed-in tariff. Based on comments on previous blogs and questions we receive from readers, we know that some people find the whole issue of exporting electricity confusing. The energy company's customer service teams don't seem to be helping to clarify it.

Our mystery shopper phoned all of the big six energy companies, plus Good Energy and Ecotricity. She posed as someone considering installing a 3.9kWp solar PV system, and asked whether she could have an export meter installed, and if so, what it would cost.

Ecotricity was the only company that said it will install an export meter if a customer requests it. It quoted a cost of £50 (for a Devon postcode), with no ongoing maintenance costs. Scottish Power simply stated that it does not offer export meters on systems under 50kWp.

Southern Electric will install a smart meter for existing customers, free of charge. However, for new customers, it, like all the rest of the energy companies we spoke to, recommended talking to your installer.

This advice is wrong. While an installer can put in a meter to measure the amount of electricity you export, it will not be acceptable for paying the export tariff. According to the regulator, Ofgem, for an export meter to be approved for feed-in tariff payments it must meet strict criteria, and be installed and maintained by the electricity supplier. This means it will generally be done by the local distributor, at the request of your energy company. It must have an MPAN number (similar to that on your normal electricity meter).

These rules are devised for bigger generation systems (every installation over 30kWp must have an approved meter), where serious sums of money are involved. Smaller installations are 'deemed' to have exported half of their total generation, and so will be paid the 3.1p per kWh export tariff on that 50%. The cost of installing and maintaining a meter is likely to be greater, than the income from the export tariff for most domestic systems.

All the energy companies urged our mystery shopper to go with the 50% deemed export option, saying that it was not worth installing an export meter. But their explanations didn't all help her understand why.

EDF thoroughly put her off the idea, quoting a cost of £400+ for installing the meter, plus a "considerable amount of maintenance charge" and referring her to her installer, and possibly the meter operator, for more information.

Npower gave similar advice, saying that it does not install meters itself, but that she would be looking at a couple of hundred pounds to buy one, and her installer should be able to help. It also pointed out that smart meters would be installed free of charge to existing customers, but not for another couple of years.

E.on appeared more interested in giving our caller a quote to install her solar panels than on answering her questions. Interestingly, it said that they don't install export meters on their installations, but our caller should talk to her installer if she wanted to go down that route.

British Gas said it didn't offer export meters, mainly because smart meters (see below) are due to be rolled out from early 2013. It also recommended speaking to your installer if you want an export meter now, saying they cost a couple of hundred pounds.

Good Energy told our caller that she would only need an export meter for an installation of 10kWp or more. When asked if they would provide a meter for a smaller installation it advised our caller to talk to her installer, who would not be likely to recommend it either. (This is interesting, as I am a Good Energy customer, and was told I could have an export meter, but it would cost £70 to install, plus a yearly maintenance charge. As this would be more than I get in export payments, I chose not to go ahead).

The situation will change again when smart meters are introduced, as they will measure both import and export of microgenerated electricity, as well as that imported from the grid. Energy companies will have to install these, free of charge, in every household in the UK between now and 2020. The foundation stage, where smart meters will be tested, is starting now, and the mass roll out will begin in 2014.

NB: This article is based on one phone call to each company - so it just gives a snapshot, rather than a representative sample of customer service.

More information about energy companies and feed-in tariffs from YouGen

Got a feed-in tariff complaint? You may need this guide!

How to choose your feed-in tariff supplier

Which energy company is most helpful about the feed-in tariff?

Feed-in tariff information page

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If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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Comments

22 comments - read them below or add one

cg617

cg617Comment left on: 17 April 2014 at 10:41 am

E-On have yesterday insisted on changing my (spinning disk v1) meter (it runs backwards), for a new meter.  They can't (won't?) confirm what the replacement meter will be, but have confirmed both verbally by the FIT team and by email by the Smart Meter team that the 'new' Smart Meter does NOT have the ability to record the exported power.  Even though this is a requirement of the smart meter,  as laid down by the Technical Spec by DECC.

Being suspicious by nature, are the power companies trying to avoid admitting this capability because it would be in OUR favour (at least in mine where I would probably export 20+KWh/day during the summer, or are the smart meters they are rolling out really not meeting the governments DECC technical spec, and if so, are they taking a dodgy stance?

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 29 November 2012 at 11:06 am

Hi Mick - two good questions, and I'm afraid I can't answer them. As far as I know these decisions haven't been taken yet. I know that smart meters will register both import and export, so my guess is that at some time in the future export will be paid on actual rather than deemed amount. Both then and now, the best way to get the most return from you panels is to use as much of the solar generated electricity as possible.

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MickFlan

MickFlanComment left on: 28 November 2012 at 2:15 pm

Hi Cathy

Can you clarify something for me please. At the moment I am receiving a Feed In Tariff payment for my Solar PV system a) on what I generate and b) 50% of that as a 'deemed' export.

On my FiT application form I chose NOT to have a export meter fitted.

1) What will happen, and will the payments change when a smart meter is installed as part of the national rollout?

2) Will I still received a deemed export payment or will my export payments now be based on measurements from this smart meter that I haven't asked to be installed?

What will happen on new installtions that already have a smart meter installed? Will the deemed option still be available?

Thanks. Mick

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 16 March 2012 at 10:42 am

Hi Christopher

As you'll see from the blog above, the energy companies have quite different attitudes to export meters. You have to have one for systems bigger than 30kW, and for systems smaller than that some will fit them, and others won't - and prices vary.

If you do get an export rate you will lose the 'deemed' 50%. Whether it is worth it or not will depend on your daytime electricity usage. Your system will generate much more electricity in the summer months than it is generating now, and if your usage stays the same, it's likely that you will be exporting more than 50% of what you generate.

Smart meters will be rolled out soon which will meter both import and export - however, the standards haven't yet been finalised, so it may be risky to get one installed now.

The old fashioned meters which run backwards when you are exporting give generators an extra financial boost as they pay for less electricity than they actually use. However, as soon as electricity companies realise you've got one they are likely to change it for a modern digital meter.

However, it doesn't follow that exported units return to you at night. When your system is generating, any electric use in the house draws on the generated power first, and tops it up if necessary with imported electricity. If you are generating more than you use, it flows out to the grid. At night, an electricity you use is purchased from the grid in the usual way.

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Christopher B

Christopher BComment left on: 15 March 2012 at 12:17 pm

We have a 10 k system fitted by Mole Valley Renewable s, it is generating from 14 to 35 units a day, at the moment we are using aprox 20 of these the rest is being exported. Can we request an import / export meter? and would this entail us loosing the 50% estimate export rate?.I have read about grid tied systems where the meter runs backward when exporting and forward when importing this would make it much more efficient as the amount of exported units would be would be returned back to us by night. .

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 6 February 2012 at 5:45 pm

Hi Sue

You are not alone in being confused, as you'll know if you've read the comments below. This is one of the things we get most questions about.

Your installer was wrong to show you a calculation based on being paid for exporting 75% of the electricity, as for small installations (under 30kW) the norm is to 'deem' export to be 50% of what you generate.

The key to what kind of export meter you've got is whether or not it's got an MPAN number. If it has, it's official and you must use it to report your exported electricity. If not, it's just for your information. As outlined above, energy companies charge a varying amount for fitting an export meter with an MPAN number.

For more reading on this subject see the following blogs:

Exporting your home-generated electricity: deemed vs metered

Import and export meters and the feed-in tariff


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SueR

SueRComment left on: 3 February 2012 at 11:43 pm

I am totally confused by the 3.1p additional payment for the electricity I don't use.  The quotation I received from my installer says that "assumption based on 75% of electricity produced to be exported" and show a calculation based on this.  However, now I am being told that only the first 50% of anything I feed back in is paid.  The installers have fitted an Export meter (but I think only for my benefit) - can anyone throw any light on this - which is correct?  None of the web sites seem to be very clear on this and I cannot see why I should not be paid the 3.1p for every bit I send to the grid.

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 2 February 2012 at 1:09 pm

@Sparky Parky

Sorry, you're right, I did misunderstand. Eon is wrong if they think most people use more than half. I believe that most people export more than half. I certainly do on my 2.1kW installation. I export around two thirds - and I work at home - which means I've more opportunity to use it during the day. I know EST is doing some research on this, and will report on the findings as soon as they are available.

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Sparky Parky

Sparky ParkyComment left on: 1 February 2012 at 10:14 pm

Hi Cathy,

I think you have mis-understood what I said. Eon told me that most people use more than 50% of the power that they generate. Their "inaccurate" meter shows that even in winterwe export more than50%. Being retired, we go away on holiday a lot in the summer and so will be exporting all the energy we produce.

In my working life I used to design equipment to test diesel generators so am fairly familiar with metering equipment and think that their comments are erroneous. 

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 16 January 2012 at 5:21 pm

Hi Sparky Parky

First thing: I think Eon is probably right in saying that most domestic installations export more than 50% of their generated electricity, especially if they are out of the house all day.

More curious is the assertion that the smart meter doesn't measure exported electricity accurately.

Eventually, there will be a roll out of smart meters to all households, and it is intended that they measure both import and export of electricity. However, the government hasn't yet agreed the standards for those smart meters, so any that energy companies are currently installing may need to be changed when the major change over comes along.

However, I'm still surprised to hear what you say, and will do some digging to see if I can find out more.

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Sparky Parky

Sparky ParkyComment left on: 14 January 2012 at 3:46 pm

I am currently in conversation with EON concerning payment for units exported to them. I had a Smart Meter fitted by them last August and P.V. panels fitted last October. They have said that the smart meter does not measure exported electricity accurately and that most people use more than 50% of the power they generate!

This worries me as the meter carries a CE marking. Are they telling me porkies to avoid correct payment and what can i do about it?

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Gilly Jones

Gilly JonesComment left on: 11 October 2011 at 9:18 am

Hi Mark

Whichever energy company you are with will insist on replacing a
backward spinning meter with a digital one as soon as they realise
that's what you've got. Where they differ is on their policies on
smart meters and export meter.

As you can see above Ecotricity is the one that installs them cheapest. If you go down that route you will be paid the export rate on metered export, not the deemed 50%. Otherwiseyou could shop around to see if anyone will install a smart meter, but as the mass roll out isn't due to start for a while, you may not be in luck.

Let us know how you get on.

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Mark Brown

Mark BrownComment left on: 10 October 2011 at 1:41 pm

I have 3kWp PV system installed 19 months ago. NPower (my utility) have always known this. Now, out of the blue, NPower have contracted me to demand (yes it was a demand) that they should be allowed to enter my home and replace by Import Meter with one that doesn't go backwards. I am currently refusing but they say it is "in the standard terms and conditions". My refusal is based firstly on the advice of an installer I spoke to a couple of years back and the fact that I have no Export Meter. With quite simple mathematics I can deduce how much energy my home uses using my Generation Meter in combination with my Import Meter. If my Import meter doesn't go backwards I no longer know how much I use. So I requested that they either a) fit a smart meter or b) fit an export meter. On the latter they said that was between me and the PV installers. I told them that wasn't true but they were not to be swayed.

Do I have any grounds to continue with my existing meter? Is there anything they are not telling me? Or should I give up the ghost and let them rip out my beloved backward spinning meter? Should I change supplier? Please help!

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 1 July 2011 at 8:53 am

Good question Mark333. It would be nice to think it will be net metering, but I'm not holding my breath!

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mark333

mark333Comment left on: 30 June 2011 at 4:41 pm

HI, in the above article it states"The situation will change again when smart meters are introduced, as they will measure both import and export of microgenerated electricity, as well as that imported from the grid."

Will this mean that net metering will applie to the new smart meters , or will we  still have the one sided arrangement where power companies can buy each kwh we ( most of what !!) generate for 1.5 pence ( often during peak times)and sell it back to us at anything upto and above 18pence per kwh at any time ???

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 30 May 2011 at 11:22 am

Hi Fred1 - I hope it was a collective bad day...

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Fred1

Fred1Comment left on: 29 May 2011 at 9:39 am

Cathy,

FIT licensee's appear to have duties under the scheme ( see para 6.7.1 Appendix three Guidance for licenced Electricity Suppliers see Ofgem Website) these duties include

 issuing info which is complete and accurate

is capable of being easily understood by the  FIT Generator

does not mislead the FIT generator

is delivered in a professional manner

etc etc

Seems like your shopper must have hit them on a bad day.....

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 16 May 2011 at 9:58 am

Hi Grasmere

It's EDF's  policy not to supply export meters for systems smaller than 30kWp. It is completely within its rights to do this as the rules say that installations of over 30kW must have an export meter. If they are less than 30kW it's optional, but if you do have an export meter you must use it. If you don't, the amount exported will be 'deemed' at 50% for solar PV, wind turbines, and anaerobic digestion; and at 75% for micro hydro.

However, you don't have to use the same electricity company that you buy your electricity from for your feed-in tariff (FIT) supplier. So you could continue to import power from EDF, and change to either Good Energy or Ecotricity, which both will supply export meters for smaller systems (see blog above).

If you had an export meter fitted you would receive 43.3p per kWh generated, plus 3.1p per kWh exported.

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Grasmere

GrasmereComment left on: 13 May 2011 at 7:47 pm

Message: Have been trying to get to my proposed PV installer to fit a export meter when building my 4kw instalation, he said its down to my supplier (EDF) to fit oneif I request one. Also the export tarrif @ 3p plus a F.I.T @ 41.3p = 44.4p per kw generated. Even though the index linked F.I.T has now risen the payment scale does not rise if on an 50% export tarrif. Any body wish to comment on the ease of getting a export meter fitted and or any one comment on the suggested tarrif if one does get a meter. The reason for looking at a meter is the 4kw system will export all most 99% of its generation during the week days..

Just reieived a reply from EDF claiming that if a export meter was fittedand registered the only payment that would be maid would be at 3p per kw and not the 43.3p F.I.T plus the 3p per kw exported. surely this is not correct ???.

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 2 May 2011 at 8:57 am

Hi Fred & Farmer

I can't comment on the possibility of separating the payment of the generation tariff and the export tariff, but you can definitely choose a feed-in supplier (ie the one who pays both your generation and feed-in tariff that is different from the company you buy your electricity from. See this blog for more details.

As Hugo says, they all pay the same rates (as set by government), so the choice is pretty much down to customer service, and for a system the size you're planning, farmer, I'd also be looking at whether the company offers an export meter for microgenerators.

I couldn't tell from a quick look at Trade Link Solutions' website whether they are an option for microgenerators (

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Fred1

Fred1Comment left on: 1 May 2011 at 12:45 pm

Hi Farmer,

I looked into this about a year ago, I spoke to Ofgem, the advice was on the phone and I have not seen anything written on any website.Apparently the FIT scheme is set up so you can have supplier A who you can buy from at night etc, Company B who pays for what you Generate, you can have a third company C who buys in you Exported. Most of the big six assume and set up their paperwork so that you have only one firm ie A=B=C. The way the scheme is set up is perhaps to adhere to competition law, perhaps for larger generators in time the big six will want to capture more and more market share, one way they can do this is to offer premiums for generated or exported above the sandard govt set amounts .Good luck with your plan, let us know if it works...

Regards

Fred

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farmer

farmerComment left on: 30 April 2011 at 1:39 pm

I have recently had installed a c. 9.9 kwp system and am about to register for FIT. My supplier is ScottishPower. I have to make my decision re. accepting their deemed export of 50% of generation when I register. There is no doubt that, aside from the bureaucratic hassle, it would be worth paying for installation of an export mater and even a moderate annual fee as I will be exporting most of what I generate - if ScottishPower were willing to 'cooperate'. The ScottishPower FIT registration application form allows me to opt out of their 'deemed 50%' scheme; which begs the question "if I opt out, can I export to or via another company willing to take it?" e.g. Trade Link Solutions? Would I still have to acquire an MPAN for the export meter? Are there alternatives to Trade Link Solutions?

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