I’m in the process of having solar panels and a storage battery installed on my home.
In order to run the battery on a cheap night-time energy tariff, and receive Smart Export Guarantee payments for any excess electricity I generate, I need my first-generation smart meter upgraded to a second generation one.
However, my energy supplier, EDF, is refusing to do so at this point.
Secondly, I am struggling to find a cheap night-time tariff that does not also require me to have an electric vehicle – which I do not.
I’m doing what I can both for the planet and my pocket, but feel like I’m hitting brick walls so far.
I am also confused about whether I need an electric vehicle for Octopus’ Go or the EDF tariff. Can you advise? Via email
One consumer is looking to install solar panels to be greener but has encountered problems
Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: We are constantly being told to make changes to the way we live our lives in order to help the environment.
When it comes to our homes, one of the major ways we can do that is by switching to a green energy tariff or, as you are doing, taking it a step further and installing solar panels and storage batteries.
Whilst this is pricier in the short term, it should prove to be cheaper in the long term.
You have decided to shoulder the upfront costs in order to help the planet, and should be commended for that. However, your energy provider is making life difficult.
EDF is refusing to move you from a first generation smart meter, also known as a SMETS1 device, to a second generation one, called a SMETS2.
Unfortunately, this has been a common problem, with many suppliers refusing to upgrade the older models. There is an excess of these, and they want to see them used before they start giving out new ones.
This is despite many SMETS1 meters going ‘dumb’ – or losing all functionality – after customers have switched suppliers.
Smart meters provide energy suppliers with accurate readings of much electricity a solar panel system is delivering to the National Grid.
This can help customers to maximise their payments through the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG).
While first-generation meters had their troubles with solar panel connection, the second generation are fully compatible – which is why you need one.
The SEG scheme requires electricity suppliers to pay small-scale generators, for example homes with solar panels, for low-carbon electricity which they export back to the National Grid, providing certain criteria are met.
However, you cannot take advantage of this for as long as EDF refuses to upgrade your smart meter.
When contacted by This is Money, a spokesperson for EDF said: ‘Smart meters will help customers access more products to monitor and reduce their energy usage in the future.
‘We recognise that some customers with SMETS1 meters are currently unable to access the full smart meter benefits because their meter cannot connect to the industry’s communications network.
‘Rather than replacing these meters, the industry is in the process of enrolling SMETS1 meters onto the network.
‘This has happened for the vast majority of EDF customers and we are continuing to work with partners across the industry to ensure any remaining customers with legacy smart meters have their meters enrolled as soon as possible.’
So EDF says that your existing meter will eventually be upgraded so that it can track the surplus energy that your home provides to the National Grid.
But with no guarantee when this will happen, it is worth speaking to other energy suppliers to see if they are able to install a SMETS2 meter at your property in the meantime to speed the process up.
Homes with solar panels will need second generation smart meters for them to function
You are also looking to get a storage battery, which is a sensible solution when fitting solar panels.
Often, electricity generated by the panels can go to waste, as the most energy is produced during the day when there is more sun – and when you are least likely to be at home to use it.
Batteries provide a solution to this by storing solar power so customers can use it later.
A number of companies have now designed these batteries, which can be attached to the home, with prices varying from as little as £2,000 to as much as £10,000.
To run your storage battery and solar panels efficiently, you are looking for an affordable night-time electricity tariff, where most suppliers charge much less than day time plans.
However you are finding this difficult, which is probably due to the ongoing energy crisis.
Wholesale costs have soared leaving half of the suppliers in the market to collapse and resulting in soaring energy bills for consumers.
Night-time electricity tariffs are commonly used by electric vehicle owners, as they offer them cheaper electricity at the time when they are most likely to be charging their cars.
Charging an electric car puts significant demand on the grid, so energy companies want to encourage owners to do so at times when usage is lower.
But working out whether you can access one of these tariffs without an electric vehicle is somewhat confusing.
EDF, your current supplier and one of the only firms to offer electric tariffs, says its GoElectric tariff is exclusive to electric vehicle owners.
It says customers who do not have an electric vehicle can still access its Economy 7 tariff, which provides several hours of reduced energy rates through the night.
These tariffs are subject to the energy price cap, though this has risen sharply in recent months.
Any quoted costs you are given based on usage may also seem higher, as the assumed average consumption of electricity is higher. This is because these tariffs are often used by electric vehicle owners.
For example, the assumed average electricity consumption for an Economy 7 meter is 4,200 kWh, whilst the assumed average electricity consumption on a normal meter is 2,900 kWh, according to Energy Helpline.
Octopus Energy said their Octopus Go tariff requires you to have an EV as it is an experiment
Meanwhile, Octopus Energy says its Octopus Go tariff is also just for electric vehicle drivers, as it was designed specifically for EV charging.
A spokesperson said: ‘Octopus Go is an experiment set up to find out how overnight EV charging can support the grid on a large scale in the future.
‘Frustratingly, that does mean consumers without EVs using other low-carbon technologies like batteries, for example, can throw our data-gathering off a bit – and that’s why it’s a requirement to have an electric car to join the tariff.
‘We love all early adopters who are already developing their own futuristic energy setups.
‘To make sure they’re celebrated for their efforts as well, we’ve got other brilliant tariffs which don’t share the same EV requirement, like Agile Octopus and Outgoing Octopus.’
Outgoing Octopus is a dynamic export tariff which pays customers either more or less for their solar power, based on when it is most needed in the day.
These days, with low renewable generation and high gas prices sending wholesale prices spiking, customers on Outgoing Octopus are getting paid decent rates for their power.
Some days they can earn more than £2 per kilowatt hour, compared to most other export tariffs which are somewhere between 3-5p per kilowatt hour.
Unfortunately, it seems the tariffs you have your eye on are for EV’s only. However, many suppliers do have other night-time plans so it is worth researching to see which one works for you.
To find out which providers support SEGs, visit the Ofgem website.
Hopefully you can find a supplier and a tariff who will make it easier for you to realise your green ambitions.
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