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When eligibility for the feed-in starts: the definitive answer

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 21 October 2011 at 6:02 am

"What is the start date for my feed-in tariff payments?" and variations on it must be the most frequently asked question we get here at YouGen. Is it the date it's commissioned? Or the date the electricity company gets your application? And what happens if they lose it?

Well I've just checked with Ofgem, and this is what they say:

"Feed-in tariff (FIT) payments start on the eligibility date of the installation. Eligibility date for FIT Installations is the later of the commissioning date or the application date. Effectively meaning you have to commission and apply for the scheme to be eligible to receive payments. We would advise people to apply soon after [their system is] commissioned, but regardless generators will receive a fixed period of support from their eligibility date based on the technology type. i.e. 25 years for PV."

A typical question for us is this one from a reader in Aberdeen: "I have PV solar panels (3.99kW) installed at my house in Aberdeen,Scotland, on 20th September 2011. As in most cases paperwork and postage takes a certain amount of time, and I only received my feed-in tariff contract from my electricity supplier, Scottish Hydro / SSE, today, 4th Ocrtober 2011. I notice from the contract sent me that the eligibility date of the contract is 29 September 2011. My solar panels have produced 128.3 kWh, or £ 55.68 from the FIT Tariff during this intervening period. Is Scottish Hydro / SSE responsible for payment of the FIT in this period, or will this production just be grabbed / stolen by the electricity supplier?"

Based on the Ofgem answer above, our enquirer won't be paid for the first 128.3 kWh her system has generated, but SSE will have to pay her until 29 September 2036 (eligibility date) rather than 20 September (install date) and the rate will be tied to the retail price index. So the payment is delayed, rather than grabbed or stolen. I'm sure readers will let us know in the comment section below how acceptable that is!

My advice would be to send the paperwork off to your FIT supplier on the day of your installation. If you want to be extra safe, send it registered post, so you can prove when it was sent if your energy supplier loses it.

Photo by Andreas Demmelbauer

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Comments

19 comments - read them below or add one

edfnightmare

edfnightmareComment left on: 21 January 2013 at 4:33 pm

I'm in the same boat and believe we have many grounds on which to fight against eDF and others for not giving us the FIT rate applicable when we applied. Anyone who has this problem of Electricity Companies refusing to pay the rate in force at application date because they say your FIT application is incomplete and not rectified before the rate change deadline please feel free to contact me at edfnightmare@mail.com.

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Capt.Radar

Capt.RadarComment left on: 23 December 2012 at 9:18 pm

Hi Cathy,

I had exactly the same problem as Malcolm! it seems EDF have found a very convenient 'loophole' (Multi-Installation Declaration missing in FIT application) to save some money! 

EDF always quote the OFGEM obligations on the GENERATOR (us) to absolve their responsibility.  

The OFGEM guidance for LICENSED ELECTRICITY SUPPLIERS (EDF) has some very relevant clauses, such as quote: - 'when providing information to a FIT Generator (whether in writing, by electronic display or orally) in relation to the FIT scheme, the mandatory FIT Licensee shall take all reasonable steps to ensure it:
(a) is complete and accurate
(b) is capable of being easily understood by the FIT generator
(c) does not mislead the FIT Generator; and
(d) is otherwise fair, transparent, appropriate and delivered in a professional manner both in terms of content and in terms of how it is presented (with more important information being given appropriate prominence)." 
 
This is not the case with EDF.  Their forms are long and complicated (e.g. British Gas form = 4 pages, EDF 12 pages) and EDF have confirmed their errors by modifying and correcting their application form since the version 4 form available in July.  The EDF v6 form is now more clear, having the Multi-Installation declaration in the checklist page 2 and very prominent BOLD TYPE warnings regarding accuracy of applications on the first page.  No such information is on form v4!  So why would you include a declaration not even requested in the document checklist? And why rush to submit or verify the form when there is no warning.  

The EDF form also asks the same multi installation questions in the section 5 tick boxes, so they do have our signed confirmation that we own only one installation.

OFGEM guidance only refers to an 'application' made to a Licensed Supplier, it does not say it must be absolutely free from all errors etc.

So, EDF have not complied with the OFGEM guidance!

There seems to be many in the same position as Malcolm and myself, so I suggest we make some kind of representation to OFGEM, otherwise EDF will get away with their tricks and we will be the loosers.

Comments welcome!    

 

 

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 1 November 2012 at 3:31 pm

Hi Malcolm

I just asked on Twitter if anyone had had similar experiences - and whether they had been able to resolve them. Not encouraging I'm afraid. I got this from one installer: "our clients didn't get EDF 2 budge - said it wasn't their responsibility if application incomplete and had no duty to inform them". Which is a depressing indictment of EDF's attitude to customer service.

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Malcolm Pidcock

Malcolm PidcockComment left on: 31 October 2012 at 4:41 pm

I had a 4kW system fitted mid-May 2012 and submitted my FIT application to EDF within 5 days in order to start with a zero reading. EDF acknowledged receipt on 28 May 2012. Having heard nothing for 4 months and noting the electricity meter was going backwards, I contacted EDF to advise them of the situation and to get the meter change. This spurred them into action and on 17 September 2012 I received a letter advising I had not completed the 'Multi-Installation declaration'. I completed the form and returned it on 19 September 2012 with a generation meter reading of 1665 kWh. I have now received the FIT Statement of Terms which indicates an Eligibility Date of 20 September 2012. This means I do not receive payment for the first 1665 kWh generated and only receive a FIT tariff of 16p/kWh instead of 21p/kWh. Since this is purely down to EDF's inefficiency in dealing with my application in a timely manner, I contacted them to complain. They advised me there is nothing they can do as eligibilty only starts when the application is fully completed as there is no set timescale for dealing with applications. Had I known about this situation I would have chased them up earlier plus the fact that I would not have had the solar panels fitted based on a FIT of 16p/kWh. Has anyone else had this problem and been successful in changing the FIT rate and Eligibility Date - and how did they do it?

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 29 February 2012 at 9:34 am

If you get it registered by close of play on 2 March you may get the 43.3p tariff, but you won't know until the legal shenanigans is over. If the government loses it's appeal, people who installed between 12 December and 2 March incl. will probably get 43.3p.

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AintreegoesEco

AintreegoesEcoComment left on: 29 February 2012 at 9:31 am

We had solar PV installed and registered the MCS certificate etc with BG earlier this month (Feb). We haven't returned the contract yet as were concerned it gives FIT as dropping to 21p from 1 April. Do we need to get this to them before March 2nd or has it no bearing on what FIT we will be paid. BG said no problem as long as they get it before our first meter reading is due in May.

Thanks

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 7 February 2012 at 3:08 pm

Hi Paul

Sorry for the delay responding. You don't have to use the energy company that supplies your electricity as your FIT supplier. So, you may well be able to move to another company, and leave the FIT supply with British Gas. However, some of the big six are reluctant to have you as a FIT customer if you buy your electricity from another big six company. It shouldn't be a problem if you buy from an independent.

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sunnyboyjim

sunnyboyjimComment left on: 8 January 2012 at 11:04 am

Hi

I have a 4kw system installed in July 2011 ,  electric bill reduced from £54 a month to £30 &1st quartely cheque for generation of £465 from British Gas .

I have a fixed priced account  Websaver 11 until april 2012 .

Looking at the  tariffs for renewal ,shows that British Gs might not be my best option should I wish to change

Does anyone know what the policy is for changing energy supplier are ?

 

Many Thanks

Paul

 

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 6 January 2012 at 10:35 am

Christine, I'm afraid that any energy that went into the grid before the eligibility date is a present to your energy company. Annoying, I know, but the export rate is only 3.1p per kWh, so it's the generation rate that contributes most to your income from the solar pv.

As to what happens after the 25 years, it's probably to early to say. I suspect that microgeneration policy will have changed beyond recognition by then - and hope that it will be normal, rather than rare. My guess would be that all energy companies will have export rates as well as purchase rates. Let's just hope they are not as inpenetrably complicated as their current purchase rates are!

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Christine

ChristineComment left on: 5 January 2012 at 6:06 pm

We had an installation in April and were not aware of the 'eligibility' and so have lost a considerable sum.

I do understand that the 25 years should run from that date, but what about all that free electricity, for the Energy suppliers but paid for by us, that has gone into the grid before the eligibility date and then what happens post the 25 years?

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cliomadness

cliomadnessComment left on: 30 October 2011 at 3:35 pm

jill, with regards to a meter that is going backwards it is always within your interest to get this meter changed asap as what will actually happen is they will then set about charging you for the units your meter has gone bacwards by, which is normally done by using the measure of your new meter and how many units that says you use in a day. which as we are now coming intoi winter will be vastly different to that as of 6 weeks ago and not in your favour.

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 27 October 2011 at 8:37 pm

Jill - as long as you've told them, it's down to them when they get round to changing your meter, and I've not heard of anyone who's been charged.You're right that you benefit from the meter going backwards.

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Jill

JillComment left on: 27 October 2011 at 2:45 pm

I sent my forms to npower on 5 Sept, they acknowledged receipt on 13 Sept and said it would take c6weeks to process/do the checks.  Phoned them today (answered on the first ring!)  the said they'd done the checks and it was ready to register (presume with OFGEM having read other comments - he said they would get on with registering it today. Got the impression it would have continued to sit on a pile if i hadn't phoned.   I asked what they would be doing about my meter, would they be changing it (I'd ticked the running backward box) . Some discussion (he had to ask the supervisor) then told me 'they could send an email if I wanted?' to the meter changing people presumably - I said there was no need to rush to do this as they'd get to it in the normal course which would be fine.

I am assuming that it is to my advantage to delay the meter change and not to press for npower to do it as at the moment I getting the benefit of all my solar PV electricity off my electricity bill.  But will Npower try to recoup this from me? Would they have any way of actually knowing what I'd used.        

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Slar pv novice

Slar pv noviceComment left on: 27 October 2011 at 5:58 am

E-on advised me that I could not apply in advance of the installation date but that, if the completed application was received by them within 5 working days of the installation, they would accept my initial 'zero' generation meter reading.

I duly sent the forms by recorded delivery and obtained proof from the Post Office web site that the forms had been delivered within the required timescale.

The only problem I experienced was that it took E-on approximately 2 weeks to confirm to me that they had received the application in time. This was because of a backlog opening application letters.

There was then a further delay whlist E-on awaited confirmation from OFGEM that my application was successful.

Eventually, I received notification that my application was accepted with an effective date of the actual installation with a 'zero' initial reading.

I am due to submit my first reading towards the end of November so, until then, I do not have any experience of the efficiency (or otherwise) of the payment process.

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 25 October 2011 at 10:55 pm

Here's the timescale for getting my solar panel installation approved through EDF energy.

7 July Panels Installed
8 July Paperwork sent to EDF (recorded delivery)
11 July Paperwork delivered to EDF
11 August EDF writes and acknowledges receipt of paperwork. Says that it needs 'Payment Details'. I ask what that means - my bank account because they want to directly credit my bank account. Pity they didn't explain that rather than merely asking for 'Payment Details'. I don't expect many people would have worked out that meant EDF wanted the bank sort code and account number.
19 September EDF writes that the FIT installation has been registered with OFGEM and encloses contract for signing.
4 October EDF writes that my system is now fully accredited with OFGEM. Just too late to provide a September meter reading so my first FIT generation payment won't be made until some time after the end of December; up to 90 days (i.e. another 3 months) after the end of December. So that will take at least 6 months, and could take up to 9 months, to get the first FIT money.

The only saving grace is that EDF Green Team does have an 0800 (freephone) telephone number but if they got on and dealt with the paperwork quickly, they wouldn't have to provide staff to talk to customers explaining why they haven't been able to deal with the application forms promptly! It always takes a long while to get through to the Green Team but at least it's an 0800 number. And the staff there all seem to know what they're talking about. They clearly don't use a call centre because the staff give proper detailed answers to any questions you may have. They don't have to refer to a supervisor, each of them are well trained and know the detailed answers.

Satisfied? I suppose so. Disappointed it takes so long but I can understand that there will have been a big peak of work in recent months.

Comments received by email from RC

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 25 October 2011 at 10:54 pm

Hi deeppurple - it's great to hear a positive story about British Gas, as usually I hear stories about not being able to get through on the phone. Hopefully this means that they have got some more staff dealing with feed-in tariffs.

I've also had a number of stories by email:

I had no problems with my eligibility date from e-on but do have problems every quarter getting my payments from them.
The first quarter took 6 weeks as they said that they had the wrong bank details?
The next quarter I had to ring them several times and took about 4 weeks to go into my account and it has been the same every quarter.
They told me that it was because they have too many customers now, I do feel that to have to wait 4 weeks for my payment rather a long time. - from LV

I am really fed up with the whole thing & could not recommend SSE handling   My FIT started 16 Nov 2010    I got my 1st payment end August & 2nd last week   !   The payments are less than half the standard promised by Solar Plus ! - from PR

I have not yet had my first quarterly payment for FIT from my solar system, the discrepancy between connection date and eligibility date was quite evident when the contract appeared.  My system is brand new and the FIT meter started at 0 kWh when installed, and has produced electricity since installation without any problems. I stated 0kWh on the application form when I sent all the documentation to SSE, but I was probably too honest in advising SSE of the reading on my FIT meter on the contract date.  By then the system had already produced FIT worth £ 56.00 onto the grid.  I suspect SSE will only pocket this FIT, but I do not know this for certain yet.  I will keep you posted. - from KR

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June Kirkman

June KirkmanComment left on: 25 October 2011 at 5:39 pm

I rang SSE and asked for the forms I was told there was nothing else I needed to do, it would be done on MCS cert.  On the day of the installation, I put the forms in the post, in their prepaid envelope.  They lost the forms and as a result we were given a later eligibility date and lost 186KWh.  I now know put everything in writing and use recorded mail.

Surely in 25 years our panels will not be as efficient and if they are we will be able to sign up to a new contract so there will never be catchup for the missing units.

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deeppurple

deeppurpleComment left on: 25 October 2011 at 3:54 pm

I registered my installation in advance and filled in all the papaerwork ahead of the actual installation. As soon as the system was commissioned I sent off the remaining required data (eg the system certificate). Hence my payments started on the day of the system being commissioned. British Gas (my FIT provider) was very efficient and the whole process was simple and quick. Simplest thing to do is to talk to them in advance and they will be very helpful.

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fox.mart

fox.martComment left on: 21 October 2011 at 8:55 am

The wording in the Ofgem guideline document is not very good, however I believe that you can actually "apply" in advance, meaning the eligibility date is before the commissioning date. This means that you will get all the payments from the first of the generation, though perhaps the 25 years will run out before 25 years from the commissioning date...

 Applying in advance however is tricky, as you require information for the application and MCS certificate which you will not have till after the system is up and running. I guess this will depend on your supplier,  but I know that a call/email to SSE will qualify as the all important "eligibility date". Would be interesting to see if any other suppliers will do this too...?

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