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It’s now been over 2 months since my solar panels were installed and commissioned. And I have just filled in my first generation form to receive my first FIT payment. I have also learnt a few new things about PV generation that I thought it would be useful to pass on to others.
Lesson #1 – your electricity usage meter should not go backwards!
In an earlier blog I wrote excitedly about the thrill of my electricity meter going backwards. Well, my first big lesson is that it should not be running backwards! Basically, as I am quite a frugal electricity user anyway my generating capacity over the summer (I use the term lightly) months has slightly exceeded my usage. And, because I have an ancient, analogue electricity meter recording my general usage, I was finding that it was running backwards and actually giving me a negative reading. This put me in the unusual position of giving my energy supplier a negative reading for my quarterly bill update – a case of them paying me for my (non)usage.
Therein lies a problem with old analogue meters, they do not simply stop moving when you add a micro-generator to the circuit that is supplying you with all the electricity you require, they will turn backwards, recording the total amount of generated power you are producing – regardless of whether you use it, or whether it goes back to the grid.
I’ve informed my electricity supplier of this and they are now arranging for me to get a new digital meter; which will simply stop moving forward when I am using my own generating power, but will never turn backwards. These are called ‘back stop’ usage meters apparently
I did ask whether it would be possible to bypass the installation of another ‘dumb’ meter and go straight for a smart meter, given that my meter will have to be changed again within the next 8 years to comply with the timetable for all homes to have smart metering by 2019, but unfortunately, as I’m not with British Gas, this is not an option currently – which seems a wasted opportunity to me.
So my earlier excitement of the possibility of receiving a 6pence electricity bill was short-lived I’m afraid. I’m not sure how we will work out exactly how much electricity I have actually taken from the grid in the last 2 months – as opposed to my self-generated usage, but I’m guessing it is going to be a lot higher than a few pennies worth.
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