Electricity Meter Going Backwards? – A Need for Clear Guidance From PV Installers

Listen to me talking to Winifred Robinson on Radio 4’s You & Yours about this issue, here.

Curiously, ever since I blogged about my confusion regarding my electricity usage meter running backwards following a solar PV installation, I’ve received 1000s ‘search term’ hits to my website on this very subject.  It seems like there is quite a lot of confusion out there – not just me then!

To be clear, backward running meters only occur if you have an older, analogue style meter, like the one shown below, coupled with a PV system.  In this case, every KwH of generated solar PV will be registered, consumed locally or not,  through the electricity usage meter literally running backwards. If you generate more than you use (a possibility in summer months), over an extended period you could find yourself with a meter reading that is lower than your last meter reading. This is clearly not what is supposed to happen.  Your usage meter should only register the amount of local generated power you use by not turning at all if your generated power meets your needs, and turning more slowly if it partially meets your need and hence your demand on the grid is lowered.

So far I have only come across one other person with an analogue meter plus PV, but she too had no idea that there was anything wrong, and certainly was not told by her PV installer (a different company to mine) that this would need to be changed.  She has just celebrated her first anniversary of PV ownership, and hence a year of very low electricity bills too!

I find it quite astonishing, and not a little remiss, that the installers are not making this situation clear to customers. Is it not part of the basic PV installer training to warn people that this will be the case with analogue style meters, and that they will need to inform their energy company that they will require an upgrade?

I’m also not clear where liability lies in this situation?  When you register your PV system with your FiT payment supplier (which does not need to be your energy suppler BTW) you do state what meter you have, but in my experience, and that of the other analogue meter/PV owner, nothing comes of this.  There does not seem to be a recognition within the FiT payment suppller that this is an issue.  Which is curious given that they will potentially be losing out on revenue if they supply your power too.

So, take the situation of a PV owner running an analogue meter for years before their energy supplier twigs. Will the householder be liable for paying back the actual amount of electricity they have used from the grid but not paid for?  Apart from the issues surrounding the estimating of exactly how much is owed, on which side is the onus to ensure the meter is changed to a digital ‘backstop’ electricity meter promptly?

If the householder is not informed that it is a problem at the commissioning stage, and doesn’t really understand what is happening (I only realised there might be an issue because through the summer I was generating more than I was using, so had a negative meter reading situation) is it their responsibility, are they legally liable?  Or is it the responsibility of the FiT payment suppler to check the meter type? But if the FiT payment supplier is not the energy supplier, then there is no incentive there either?

152 comments… add one
  • Anon August 7, 2012, 9:47 pm

    Everything from the supply fuse is deemed to be the householders responsibility. It is down to you to inform your energy supplier. I would do this via phone, email and letter with proof of postage that way if they do not do anything immediately you have a record of when you notified them. I have yet to have my PV system fitted but have a digital meter which replaced my old analogue one that didn't work for nearly two years. As I had done the above three times and sent my readings back they couldn't do anything but if I hadn't they would have charged me based on a quarters usage and pro-rota'd the figure. Oh and btw I work for an energy supplier so I could have ended in deep doo doo.

  • Jesty August 21, 2012, 5:56 pm

    Have had pv panels for a year.  Notified E-On at outset of installation – meter has been running backwards since installation, and the meter has been read at least three times since installation by E-On meter reader.   The situation of meter running backwards and hence lower readings each time, has thrown E-On into a spin and they are now going to install a digital meter, but they say, it will take them at least  two weeks to do so!!  As we are moving house, in the next few weeks, E-On were contacted again on 21st August and they said it would now be very difficult to calculate what is owed if we move  before the new meter is installed.   The pv supplier has advised us to challenge any costs at all as they say the electricity generated is sufficient to cover all usage so hence free electricity – they say.   Would be useful to know what the legal situation is.

  • Linda Morris September 8, 2012, 4:07 pm

    Hi, I am with EON. Not had an accurate electric bill since installation of panels in March. The company completed the FIT application form with the meter details on.  Our meter goes backwards.  We have given 4 meter readings to EOn but still cant get a bill from them  We have now had a form to fill in with 2 readings for the same day given at 12 hrs apart.  We were told we might get a new meter but were never informed to tell EON to fit one.  We have our electricity and our FIT payment from the same com;pany.  Surely the FIT team should inform the necessary department what needs to be done.

  • Alison September 11, 2012, 11:31 am

    We had PV installed a year ago and had enjoyed watching the old meter going backwards until today when SSE finally got round to replacing it.  Like others, nobody told us that the meter going backwards was a problem, this was something we only discovered by talking to others with PV installations whose meters didn't do this – thereby realising how lucky we were but then feeling guilty as this clearly shouldn't be happening.  I sent in several online meter readings which, because they started showing meter readings lower than the previous ones,  eventually caused the computer to freak with a "we'll look into this reading" type message.  I spoke to SSE to reduce our monthly direct debits, pointing out that we had solar panels (with SSE as our FIT partner) and that our meter was running backwards.  It has taken them a year to do anything about it.  We now have a very basic meter which simply shows the message 'rEd' when we are exporting, rather than a more useful (but presumably more expensive) system which shows both import and export figures.  We didn't have to pay for the meter to be changed and I doubt that SSE will bother to try and recoup the 'free' electricity that we've had – how would they work that out??  So now I have to try and use the power when it is actually being generated,  as opposed to not having to worry about that for the past year!

  • Ian Shepherd September 17, 2012, 5:02 pm

    Solar Panels Cambs sell and install Solar PV systems.  The electicity consumption meter is not part of the equipment installed by Solar PV Cos.  It is the responsibility of the electricity supply Co.  Tampering with the meter is potentially a prosecutable offence.  We advise customers with older analogue, meters that these may "run backwards" and that the Co that administers their Feed in Tariffs  should be aware of this.  The problem here is that the Feed in Tariff section of electricity supply Cos. are seperate to the operations dept,. who manage meter replacement.  Ideally when a Solar PV installation is registered the electricity Co will check it's records and communicate with the section that replaces meters that they need to replace an old meter with a new smart meter.  If this doesn't happen it is to the electricity Cos. cost.  Customers they are not in a position to tell the electricity Co to upgrade or change the meter. 

  • Mr. A. Stobbs October 1, 2012, 6:06 pm

    having watched my analogue meter going backward since february and having submitted several feadings to my energy supplier (including those readings taken by the meter man) I am now informed by them thaqt this is not correct. As a result the energy supplier afre chnaging the meter to a modern type with a backstop. I have assumed tghis reverse action is normal due to it being fed back to the grid. It is impossib;le for me to consume the power delivered by the solar p[anels. One moment it could be generating 3Kw and as a cloud passes the generated electricty could be less than 1Kw. Anyhow, I am waiting the energy suppliers next step. Undoubtedly they willtry to claw some money back.

  • Electrician London October 2, 2012, 12:56 pm

    Hi. Do someone know how long I need wait for a new meter. I planning to fit PV panels on my own roof and want to replace meter before start the work. Do i need any planning permission for PV installation on my roof???

  • Matt F October 7, 2012, 11:38 am

    The problem of old meters running backwards is exacerbated by the  meltdown in the FiT application departments of the 'big 6' supply companies but the root cause. From our experience as PV installers, the problem is that the District Network Operator (DNO), who look after the network infrastructure, are not informing the supply companies that customers have had a PV generator fitted. 
    In our case the DNO is UK Power Networks and we have had customers trying to enter lower kWh readings (meter spinning backwards) than previously – due to their PV systems – and coming up against accusations of fraud. When it was explained that a PV generator had been installed, all became clear to the supply company for the first time. 
    We, as an installer, have to inform the DNO that a G83  (domestic scale) or G59 (commercial scale) connection has been made to the network i.e. we have connected yor PV/wind turbine etc. Our responsibility ends there. This is a breakdown of communication between the DNO, who may or may  not be your supplier and are often not a customer orientated company. It impacts on the PV system owner but is not the installers fault.
    Our default position on this has become one in which we explain the likelihood of the scenario I have explained and then leave it to the customer to decide how to proceed. It is surely not the system owner's liability if the DNO and supply companies  can't get their acts together.

  • David Paradine October 20, 2012, 1:07 pm

     Anyone reading this could be mislead into believing one is totally cheating ones supplier. All one is doing is creating a virtual storage meter register facility for the surplus one has produced, and unlike the pittance one is given for selling electricity back (say 50% of 3.5p per kW-hr) to the supplier you are effectively selling your electricity at the price you pay for it rather than at these miserly rate. As the meter goes back you are storing the surplus, and when it is nightime and/or little daylight one can give effectively giving it back as the  meter goes forward again.It could be argued that users are receiving too much already because of the FIT rates but they are certainly not receiving a fair price for what they give to these energy companies. So let us say good luck to those with analogue meters because if you ask for a new one they are quite likely to rip you off again. After all, this is Rip-Off Britain at the end of the day, and it is so rare for the consumer to be the King rather than a downtrodden peasant in the 21st century.

  • Mal October 22, 2012, 11:46 am

    Folks, Thinking logically – with our panels giving a negative meter reading it shows we are a nett exporter of electricity – though this will probably not be the case in autumn/winter. Maybe what should be done is that they should take all the readings negative or not and at the end of the year we get charged as necessary. My arguement is if we (via '000s' of installations) are exporting extra electricity to the grid, then the vendors in theory do not have to generate as much from their power stations. What I am trying to get my head around is – do they get freebies from us? If so then is a meter going backwards a bad thing?

  • Malx October 22, 2012, 6:12 pm

    First full 6 months of panels and a very low bill – friendly person at SSE told me about backwards running meters – we had a right laugh once she convinced me it wasnt April 1st! Gave me a number to ring if I wanted a new meter. Yeah right!
    On reflection decided to advise supplier and emailed them having read about the hassle that some have got from suppliers over retrospective charging and even a charge for a new meter. Will wait to see their response and give an update. While they make exorbitant profits I am effectively being "subsidised" by people in genuine fuel poverty – hence the decision. It was only 51/49 in favour of "coming clean"!
    Has anyone else experience of charges levied for the above?

  • RS October 29, 2012, 1:29 pm

    I have just had PV installed and on sunny days my anolog meter does run backwards, even on a rainy day it was very slow through the day.  I was talking to a friend who had panels installed over a year ago and has told the supplier about the meter going backwards, he was told it would get replaced but to date this still has not happened.  Another friend has the same situation and enters reading every month online, last month he got a £124 credit on his bill so they seem happy for his meter to go backwards.

  • Andrea October 29, 2012, 8:18 pm

    I've just discovered that my analogue meter is running backwards, and no my installer did not mention that this could be an issue – my meter is currently showing a lower reading than the one taken in Dec 2011 when the PV panels were fitted!!   
    I've been in touch with EDF (who supplies my energy and also my FIT payments) and they're coming out to fit a new meter in the next few weeks.  The EDF agent told me that the new meter (once fitted) will automatically calculate my true meter reading based on what I've actually used since the meter last worked correctly.  I've been assured that this is normal practise for them and they've never had any complaints from any customers who've received their revised reading following the installation of the new meter.  I'm not sure how they can prove this will be accurate any more than I can prove it is inaccurate??  I guess I'm just going to wait and see what they come up with, unless anyone can give any adivce on successfully arguing my case to have the extra charges waived??  Any advice greatly received, thanks xx

  • Mike October 30, 2012, 6:25 pm

    Anxious that I might get a hefty bill to compensate for the unintended export payment, I noted on the FIT application form a year ago that I had a traditional electromagnetic meter that might run backwards, and have repeated the comment in emails at least a couple of times since. EON (both supplier and FIT agent) have never responded to this information. Payment for generation, of course, is primarily through the rather generous FIT rate; one would not expect to also be paid at the usual consumption rate – in addition to the (arbitrary) 0.5*3p/kWh(generated) for exported power. (Fortunately, because we only had space for a 2.8kW system, we have not so far had negative consumption over a billing period.) Yes, one is inadvertently using the grid as a storage system – something that, if you set out to provide it yourself, would be very costly (big batteries, more complex inverter). So you don't expect to be given that feature.
    So: When will EON change the meter? How often ought I to remind them? Is that any protection against an unexpected bill? On what basis, if they do bill me, will they estimate the correction? Can they bill me for it?

  • Clive Bower November 3, 2012, 11:59 am

    I had the situation described last summer, when my meter reading in the third quarter was lower than that of mid summer. My energy supplier (SSE) immediately picked this up and arranged to have my analogue meter replaced by a digital meter. We agreed on a usage figure for the period from historical data (the same period the previous year, the energy generated by the PV system over the period, and the readings from the analogue meter( even though it had run backwards. It obviously was exactly correct, but both the supplier and I accepted its reasonableness and this wad what I paid.
    I'm not sure of the legal obligations, but it is probably somewhere in the terms and conditions of supply that in the case of a meter malfunctionig, then the supplier can make an assumption about usage which if agreed with the consummer can be used as the basis for billing. Even if it isn't, it seems a reasonable thing to do.

  • NJS November 10, 2012, 7:10 pm

    We had PV fitted in August 2010 and our supply meter has been running backwards ever since. I notice wihtin two weeks of installation and let the supplier (a small company) know. After finally persuading them that they would be losing money through this – which they could not grasp – I finally had am email from them saying that they had no intention of replacing the meter and would not attempt to claw back the cost of any electricity we had used.  They did add that if we wanted to change our meter we could  but they would charge us £70 plus VAT. At this point I gave up my attempt to be fair to them and decided that if they are so dim they deserve to lose money! This took about 8 months of trying to make them understand the situation but apparently "management has decided it is not a problem".  We are now enjoying very low energy bills! 

    • Mike April 23, 2013, 1:29 am

      Hi NJS, Interesting story, I would be very grateful if you could tell me the name of your supplyer as I could then possibly consider changing to them. Thanks, Mike.


  • anony-mouse November 18, 2012, 2:16 pm

    Hae been reading all these posts with great interest.  Not a PV person but a small wind turbine (5kw) on Northern Isle of Sanday and the same issue applies here with folks having some meters running backwards.  There is a proliferation of turbines up here and the issue of legality of changing over the meters is still not very clear cut   Yes we have an analogue unit and SSE have been involved with an upgrade of the cable to the home but, so far no mention of changing the meter..

  • christopher December 14, 2012, 6:31 pm

    A meter going backwards should be a very good thing! Here in the states we have net metering. The utilities pay market rate for any electric sent to the grid from your PV. This isn’t so much an issue with meter technology but rather energy policy. Work to get the policy changed to promote solar.

  • Michele December 19, 2012, 10:17 am

    Paula, great web-site, great business idea. I am another one of those: 4kW PV system on my roof since May 2011, electricity meter moving backwards during the summer months. After reporting the problem to Eon (my electricity provider) and getting no answer from them, I now basically keep the system balanced. I have upped my electricity needs and I am very careful to use up all surplus which accumulates during the summer in the winter months, so that, essentially I pay nothing for my electricity. Is it my fault? Provided I keep mentioning the issue to Eon at regular intervals, and they do nothing about it, I'd say NO. I'll read carefully all comments in this blog hoping to find out a clear argument proving my guilt, but at the moment i can find none.
    One point, perhaps worth makeing. Contrary to what has been said here before, I'd say that there is a way to measure, at least approximatly, the household actual energy use, even if the meter moves backwards. If I take an electricity meter reading on, say, May 10th (call this value X1), and another one on June 10th (call this X2), and, I take, on the same days, readings from the generation meter (call these Y1 and Y2) then, it seems to me that (X2-X1)+(Y2-Y1) is approximately the actual energy usage of the household between May 10th and June 10th.

    • Paula December 19, 2012, 1:49 pm

      hi Michelle

      Thanks for your kind words and comments.  I’ve been pondering your equation, and I don’t think it does give you an overall idea of your total electrcity use, because although you have your net grid electricity consumption (X2 minus X1) and you have total generation (Y2 minus Y1), you don’t know how much of your generated power you have used? and how much you have exported. What your equation give you in total grid electrcity consumed in that month, plus total generation for a month. Unless you can ensure you use all your generated power instaneously, you cannot be sure none is being exported!  You will only get that kind of info if you have an export meter and of course they don’t fit them to domestic systems normally. 

      Cheers Paula

      • Michele January 17, 2013, 7:26 pm

        Let’s run through three examples. In all three cases assume that Y2-Y1=500kWh (i.e. you generate 500kWh in the given month). (1) Suppose that the difference X2-X1 = 0, i.e. your grid meter has the same value at the start and the end of the month. Then if there is no other input to the system and no energy sink (battery or similar), the generated 500kWh must be your consumption. (2) This time suppose that X2-X1 = 100kWh. Then surely you’ve used 100kWh+500kWh. (3) X2-X1 = -100kWh (i.e. your meter has gone backwards). -100kWh is the amount (of the generated 500kWh) that has gone back to the grid. Your consumption is therefore -100kWh+500kWh = 400kWh.

  • Roger January 20, 2013, 3:33 pm

    See if you can comment on this:
    We have a pre-MCS 1.6Kw pv array that was off-grid, via batteries until they succumbed to over-discharging and we bought a grid-tie inverter and unilaterally (using a certificated electrician) connected them to the grid instead. After a while we, too, noticed the reversing meter and discovered that it is a common phenomenon. Since we get no FIT, no half of 3.5p for export, nor anything else, we have persuaded ourselves that we just “borrow” some elec, short-term.

    Now, however, we are installing a further 2Kw of MCS panels, a second inverter and generation meter and registering for FITs so the meter will almost certainly register lower readings than previous ones at sunny times of the year. Furthermore, the new panels will be on a solar tracker, so the generation levels will be higher than the FIT company expects for 2Kw.

    If “they” decide to retrospectively charge for reversy-meter syndrome, the calcs would be somewhat onerous. What do you think?

  • Karin van der Leeden January 21, 2013, 2:54 pm

    Our electricity has been running backwards apparantly, This was discovered 6 months after the solar panel installation. British gas read the meter 3 months earlier but must have been making a mistake with recording as the meter wasn’t runningback according to them in the sommer.They have now removed the meterredeing since april from the account and we are currently waiting for the meter to be exchanged.

  • zoheb February 5, 2013, 3:19 am


    my system is on generator mode but my meter is still producing current, what can be the cause of this?


  • Jim Jibson March 13, 2013, 8:01 am

    Hi, I too have been put in this situation though mine is slightly different. Since August 2012 when I had my panels installed,  I noticed my "estimated" reads were far higher than my meter reads. Not once was my meter running backwards, though I only became aware of this situation after reading these blogs. I had continually contacted the elec gen co about their highly over estimated reading and each month I sent the actual reads to them. Not once did they reply, even after my demands for over charges were made. I have estimated they owe me about £300. Every month my meter read was higher than the previous and not just minimally. It followed the usual increase.

    It got to the stage where I threatened legal action because they owed me almost £1,000 since August. Eventually, after contacting the Consumer Focus Group, I received a letter telling me my meter was running in reverse. Still no engineer has visited my property! If my meter has been running in reverse (not noticed by me) or even running slowly due to my gen, it cannot be my fault this happens. NOW the gen co tells me they want to remove my old meter to study it and fit the new meter. THEN they will estimate (again) my usage over this period of time. How is this possible? My usage as most others, will vary month to month. I have been out of the country several times over this period. How can they possibly know what my usage would have been? I am not prepared to hand over my meter until I am paid what they owe me. They tell me they will pay nothing until I change my meter. Once this meter leaves my home, I will never have proof whether this meter was running in reverse or slowly. My usage over the past year has been 5000 units. I am 66, live alone, water is heated by gas and use very little elec. I feel my usage is normal for me.

    Where can I get a difinitive answer as to who is responsible? The gen co. were informed when I had the panels installed. They have had letters from me each month, yet only now have they decided I need a new meter and they will do nothing until they fit one.

    We have a Mexican stand off. I am NOT prepared to change my meter until they pay me and I will continue to send my actual reads to them even though every month they ignore them and again esttimate my usage. I have no idea what to do now? Any suggestions?

  • Jim Jibson March 13, 2013, 8:10 am

    I have tried twice before to leave my information on this site. Each time I send a message, it is erased !!!

    I have the same problem, I am owed hundreds of ££££££'s but even though I send my reads each month, they "estimate" my usage. Since August 2012 I have been writing and fighting them but they refuse to do anything until I agree to have a new meter installed. Mine is NOT the old analogue meter, but it is the older digital numeric meter. I understood these cannot reverse? We now have a Mexican standoff as I will not hand over my meter and lose my proof, and they will not refund until they can "ESTIMATE" again my usage since August last year. This is a ridiculous situation especially as the gen co's knew of this problem. We the consumers did not know this was a problem at the time of installation.

    Who is responsible?


  • Derek March 13, 2013, 9:25 pm

    I had solar panels fitted before the end of Oct 2012 prior to the lower feed in tariffs coming into force.  My meter has run backwards on the occasional sunny days since then (not many)  I have now received a letter from a company contracted by Npower informing me that they are changing my meter because it is faulty, which it is not.  My understanding is that the npower own the meter and have lawful rights to enter property in order  to change or check their meter.  If I deny them access they can apply for a magistrates warrant to enter by force if necessary.  (an Englishman's castle is no longer his and his rights are minimal in this modern world)  I intend to apply a few delaying tactics until we hopefully get some nice spring sunshine to lower my meter reading.   The legal position for them, the supplier, to make a charge for the amount they think you may have used cannot hold water in a court of law.  I think that they would be hard pressed to prove that I owed a certain amount of money to them.  All the boxes were ticked by the installer after fitting and it is down to the supplier to progress their interests.  After all I have fed in to the grid an amount of power which they have sold to someone else (assumed)  I have gained that power so I contend that we are in a 'quits' situation.   The company will no doubt prevail and I will accede gracefully when I can  no longer stall them any longer.  However I shall resist with all available resources if they try to recalim any money they say is outstanding.  In any event I think a court of law would laugh at them if they tried.  In summary, a legal grey area that no doubt will be sorted out; no doubt to the benefit of the companies rather than the  long suffering consumer.

  • Steve May 10, 2013, 9:48 pm

    Had panels fitted in March and changed tariff to one that requires a monthly meter reading. Just read my meter and entered the details online and received a pop-up box on the website telling me that the meter reading isn't what was expected as it is significantly lower than the last reading I supplied, i.e. has been going backwards with the sunshine we've had recently. I've contacted my installer asking them for their advice. I await a response before contacting my supplier.

  • BIG AL May 11, 2013, 8:04 am


  • paul May 15, 2013, 11:14 am

    I had panels fitted a yr last November. Twigged quite quickly my meter would run backwards on really sunny days. Like most others i thought it was normal. 3 weeks ago my electric company rang me to say my meter was faulty and they wanted to replace it. My initial thought was its not faulty or unsafe. Its acting within its design. As your not stealing electric and unit for unit the meter keeps count of what is going in/out of the grid i took some advice. Unless the meter is proving faulty or unsafe there is no legal requirement to accept a new meter. Its the installation thats not compatable rather than the design of the meter. The electric companies know this which is how im still holding on to my current meter. Its worth mentioning when i asked what the fault was they skipped all arpund the answer!! Also worth a note was my question of how will you work out my next bill if your calling past readings as faulty. The answer was we will take average daily units from the 12mths before the install. Surely that would prove just as inaccurate for billing purposes??

  • John Paton May 15, 2013, 7:47 pm

    I have had problems with my household supply meter adding rather tha subtracting the energy produced by PV installation. I have managed to get Eon to arrange a new meter (Scottish and Southern who own the meter refused to take my request for it to be changed)

    After about six moths of trying i have yet to hear anything from Eon on how they propose to coreect my bills so `i shjall have to go to the ombudsman.

    In my case it would appear that the Eon contact system is ineffective and from comments on this thread it would appear that the `government have induced people to engage with an industry which is poorly regulated and frankly does not really know what it is doing. This is extraordinary and frankly inexcusable when you think how much tax payers mponey is being paid into subsidising and promoting low carbon energies. perhaps we should be raising teh problem with our MPs


    • Clayton tindle May 31, 2013, 6:07 pm

      Solar panels fitted in march electric company now want to change metre saying it might give a false reading I don't believe them and am going to put them off for as long ass possible because while metre going backwards they owe me money 

  • Clayton tindle May 31, 2013, 6:02 pm

    Had solar panels fitted in march metre going backwards electric company been in touch and say they want to change metre as it could give false reading due to solar panels and said its an old metre and needs changing anyway so I put them off saying I did not believe them.think they don't like it going backwards because I won't be paying them anything going to put them off for as long as possible .


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