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Early energy supplier 'smart' meters incompatible with solar PV?

Posted by Gabby Mallett on 23 February 2016 at 10:15 am

We recently had a question about smart meter compatibility with PV installs and whether this may affect the 50% export deeming.

Smart meters not compatible with self-generation seemed a little bit crazy to me, so I wanted to investigate a little bit more.

At the end of 2015 overall PV capacity in the UK stood at some 8,667 MWs. That’s almost 850,000 installs. Clearly not all of these are small scale domestic, but by far the majority are. That’s three quarters of a million homes with PV, all generating their own electrical power. How many would currently benefit from energy company supplied smart meters?  I won’t get into it here, but some also have heat generation systems, which also aren’t compatible with smart meters. 

There are smart meters for measuring both electricity and gas consumption. Government targets to install smart meters should mean that ‘most homes should have one by 2020’. If the benefits, described by DECC, are realised then after install you:-

• won’t ever need to take a manual meter reading

• won’t ever get estimated bills

• will find it easier to switch energy suppliers

You’ll also get a digital display in your home, which should help you to keep track of how much energy you’re using and how much it’s costing and potentially, hopefully, you will then find it easier to make savings.

The smart meter rollout is likely to cost some £12.1billion with estimated savings to consumers of £6.7billion in excess of this.

With so much riding on it, why isn’t more being done to ensure that it is applicable to all homes? It appears that many of the smart meters which are being installed now, not only can’t cope with microgeneration, but actually aren’t that ‘smart’ at all and will require replacing before 2020.

Statistics show that 336,100 smart meters (197,900 electricity meters and 138,200 gas meters) were installed in domestic properties in quarter three of 2015.  An estimated total of 1,663,400 domestic smart meters (997,200 electricity and 666,200 gas) had been installed by 30 September 2015 by the larger energy suppliers. The lack of compatability with self-generation, in the case of my own energy supplier, means that they must be concentrating on the low-hanging fruit (ie. those people who actually need a new meter for some other reason).

A smart meter is one which is considered to be compliant with the Smart Meter Equipment Technical Specification (SMETS) and has functionality such as being able to transmit meter readings to energy suppliers and receive data remotely. However, some suppliers have chosen to make an early start by rolling out ‘smart-type’ meters without the full functionalities included in SMETS. It’s these ones which will need replacing as they don’t count towards the energy company smart meter installation obligations.

This seems a little bit crazy (did I use that word already?) to me because the cost of the installations isn’t invoiced to the individual bill payer, but added collectively to all consumers energy bills. So, it rather begs the question, why are energy companies charging us to install new meters which they know will be obsolete within five years? Surely, the money would be better spent in developing meters which are SMETS compliant and can cope with the growing number of households who have microgeneration systems. While they are at it perhaps they would like to make sure that the new meters can accommodate readings every 15 minutes, rather than the current 30 minute intervals, as this may soon be a requirement from the EU.

Have you had a smart meter installed by an energy supplier that works seemlessly with your solar PV? If so, please tell us more in the comments below for the benefit of other readers.


Photo: David Dodge


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11 comments - read them below or add one


DrGComment left on: 2 March 2017 at 2:47 pm

REf Gabby


Many thanks for that Gabby - glad to hear smart meters will only charge for electricity imported into the house from the grid.  Big relief!  best wishes

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NEF Gabby

NEF GabbyComment left on: 2 March 2017 at 11:03 am

The good news DrG is that smart meters aren't configured that way.  The meter can tell which way the current is flowing, but only measures current going from the grid, through the meter and into the home.

Given that part of the point of having a PV system is that you can use the free electricity, there wouldn't be any point in changing this system so that people would be charged for all their use, including their own production.

The thing that we will all be looking out for is smart meters that can measure use, measure generation and accept new time of use tariffs (and potentially in the future time of generation tariffs).  Then people really would start changing their behaviour to get the most out of their systems.

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DrGComment left on: 1 March 2017 at 10:55 am

If we assume that smart meters are compatible with PV we know that this could lead to a reduced FIT if you are exporting less than 50% of that produced. Many smart people obvioulsy use electricity during the day time to power underfloor heating (Air source etc) and even storage radiators so their actual export is small and presumably these people will be adversely affected.

My other point of concern is that one of the huge benefits of self generation is that you are not charged for electricity you produce because  if you are producing 4KW and using 4 KW the meter does not move. My question is that if a smart meter is fitted will you then be charged for ALL the electricity you use within the property as opposed to just being charged for the electricity that you actually import into the property as measured by the normal meter?


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Sandra Hayes

Sandra Hayes from Comment left on: 6 February 2017 at 10:49 am

On looking at this today I found this response to a Freedom of Information request made to Ofgem on the 16th October 2016 "Smart meters are compatible with solar panels ....
and Ofgem does not prevent suppliers from installing them in properties with solar panels. However, suppliers are currently in the foundation stage of the rollout so may not 
yet be able to install them in all properties".

So, I think that Smart Meters can be compatible, it just depends on which your supplier is installing.  Npower for one say that their Smart Meters aren't compatible - see their FAQ's here -


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BillWComment left on: 1 February 2017 at 12:12 pm

Much confusion - I actually refused to have the smart meter fitted this morning as I couldn't satisfactorily  get to the bottom of this.  Contacted our original panels supplier (the excellent Red Electrical, Lancashire) & he told me:

1. Both Solar & grid power are distributed into homes via the same domestic fuse box.  IE two separate supplies into the fuse box.

2.  There is no sophisticated switching mechanism between solar & grid within the fuse box.  Solar power is generated at a higher voltage than grid power &  is therefore used first by the fuse box (think of water flowing at different rates)..  Therefore, whatever type of external meter is fitted the measurement of grid power used will be the same.

3. Exported solar is a different matter, the ability to measure this is down to the manufacturer, some do, some don't & some give the option.  If you're on the 'deemed' system it will probably be better to stay on 'deemed' - you will probably lose money if you're switched to measuring exported solar power.

Questions to ask the smart provider therefore:

1. can the smart meter send data to the domestic AND fit supplier

2. is the solar export metered.

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James@JojuComment left on: 28 February 2016 at 5:12 pm

The 'compatibilty' issue is not that the smart meters cannot distinguish import from export (they can and do, otherwise all our bills would be wrong) - it is that some energy used in the use comes from the solar and the meter doesn't know about it, so cannot display energy used (as opposed to bought/imported.) As the main stated purpose of the smart meters is to provide feedback to users as to what they are using I suppose they would get complaints if they didn't do this.

If you wanted a free Smart meter to claim the export hopefully they would supply them (I would be interested to hear which suppliers are, other than Ovo?) But DECC are also talking about introducing time-of day export tarrifs in future so don't expect to get 4.5p export for ever.




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RobertPalgraveComment left on: 27 February 2016 at 9:53 am

Like Bill, I am with Good Energy - for both supply and FiT. I had my meter replaced in January to convert from Economy 7 to a flat tariff. NO SMART METER WAS OFFERED Good Energy told me that they are not doing them yet.

Also what you don't mention in the article is that many (all?) of the smart meters being fitted now only work 'smart' with the supplier in place at the time. If you switch to a different supplier your meter reverts to being 'dumb'.

There's been a lot of negative comment about the UK smart metering programme, comapring it unfavourably with Italy in particular. Alex Henney's evidence to a parliamentary committee in Oct 2014 makes sobering reading:

" t of smart meters completed in 10 years[7]gning

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allenspComment left on: 26 February 2016 at 6:22 pm

I had Landis & Gyre Smart meters installed by British Gas about 2 and a half years ago. I also had Solar panels fitted 13 months ago. My meters are not currently configured for generation / export readings but according to the Landis web site they should be configurable to differentiate between import / export. The in house display does not differentiate between the two but I am only being billed for the imported power!

Hope this helps. 

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mdjComment left on: 26 February 2016 at 6:11 pm

I'm confused.

Will they or won't they measure my PV export?

I'm with Co-Operative Energy at the moment and I export most of the electricity produced, so would like to meter it rather than work on deemeed 50%.

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Lizgra56Comment left on: 23 February 2016 at 10:33 pm

We have recently had a smart meter installed. The read out meter we have in tne house registers clearly when we are exporting electricity. It gives a minus number on the readout. So I assume the smart meter is also picking it up.

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Bill15Comment left on: 23 February 2016 at 9:34 pm


In your article you say that "The lack of compatability with self-generation, in the case of my own energy supplier, means that they must be concentrating on the low-hanging fruit (ie. those people who actually need a new meter for some other reason)".

Well, that wasn't the case for us. Our old electricity meter stopped recording and as a result was replaced earlier this month (Feb '15). However, despite having a solar PV installation, our energy supplier (Good Energy) instructed the meter company (Scottish Hydro) to fit an ordinary meter rather than a smart one.


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