New Electric Meter – Plan your daytime energy usage and draw less

After first having a visit from my electric supplier’s meter team who tried and failed to replace my meter due to the fusebox restricting the meter from being lifted off its hook, and then another turn-up without a meter, I have now finally had a new meter installed.

It’s been a rather a troublesome affair for something that really should have been so simple. I had to get the electrician back to move the fusebox 30mm so that the meter could be lifted off a screw hook. Call him back again as I was left with only partial electricity in the house and then take more time off work for the meter man to return.

I thought that having a new electric meter fitted would mean that I would get one of the new Smart Meters. Unfortunately these have had several teething problems and have not yet been released for widespread installations. I will need another visit for this in the future when they have been fully rolled out.

A lot of people are under the impression that if you have solar panels on your property then you get free electric by day. I thought this, or at least I did at first – and you do if you generate enough at the time you want it. Having now had a new meter installed I have come to realise a little more about how this works and how much is free.

You would think that if you are producing your own electric from the sun then you should then be able to use what you generate. But no, you get to use what you require at the time of generation – The rest is fed to the grid. You can not store your own electric for use later, although I have read and also heard about a few set-ups and systems that people are coming up with. For the typical user, myself included, what happens is that if you are using electric by day when the solar panels are harvesting the sun’s rays, it will use this electric first and then either top up from the grid if you require more or export any that is unused.

Let’s say I’m boiling my 3kW kettle and my system is harvesting at 2kWh while the water boils, this would then mean I’m drawing electric at 1kWh from the grid. In effect I would be buying this top-up of 1kWh at 19 pence a unit or whatever the present rate is. Now let’s go the other way, if for example, I’m using my personal computer for one hour. It uses approximately 150 watts per hour. If the panels created 1.2kW for the hour while the PC is switched on, I will have fed the excess, slightly over 1kW of electricity onto the grid. Disregarding any government subsidies this will then earn me 3 pence.

Three pence earnings per kW exported is not really worth worrying about. It is far better practice to plan your day time energy usage and draw less.

New Solar Installation Risk!

As warned yesterday, the government’s Chris Huhne today released a statement indicating that an appeal would be sought. The following paragraph from his statement highlights the uncertainties and risks of a solar installation after the December 12th 2011 cut off date.

“Yesterday, the Court of Appeal handed down a negative judgment on the Government’s appeal against an earlier decision by the High Court. We respectfully disagree with the judgment and are seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. In the light of that, we cannot rule out the possibility that lower tariffs could be applied to installations which became eligible for FITs on or after the proposed reference date. It is important that consumers are aware of this.”

The Energy Secretary of State’s full statement by can be read here.

Solar Subsidy Cuts Delayed

The government has today lost its bid in the high court of appeal to cut subsidies for solar panel installations. The news will be greatly received by anyone who was unable to beat the original December 12th cut-off date.

The unanimous decision by the three court judges to reject the appeal means home owners will now have until 3rd March 2012 to get a solar system installed and benefit from today’s ruling. But buyers should still be mindful as the government will likely seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. Installations from this date will see FIT (feed-in tariff) payments reduced by half.

This will still undoubtedly begin another solar panel ‘gold rush’ as personally experienced in November. I anticipate, contrary to the news of solar panel installation prices dropping recently, that this will now have an influence on prices inflating again until the new deadline has elapsed.

Electric Meter Runs Backwards With Solar Panels

Meter incompatible for micro-generationI have heard back from my electric supplier’s micro-generation department with reference to my meter that is running backwards when solar electric is being generated. Although I have now become fond of this newly discovered solar installation feature! they have confirmed that the meter is indeed an old unit and no longer suited for my property and that it will be changed over next week.

Loose Solar Panels

An email was sent off to the installers reporting the damaged panels on the 27/12/11. But due to the Christmas and New Year holidays an auto out of office reply email was received saying that they were closed until January 3rd. There was an emergency telephone number if required.

Further problems were to be experienced on the 29/12/11. From this date the weather conditions changed to high winds which seemed to caused all sorts of rattles above my fathers bedroom under the east solar array. An additional email was subsequently sent off on the 30th reporting these new issues and requesting an experienced installer to visit as soon as possible and investigate the noises.

Over the weekend of 31st December and 1st January while visiting my parents I found my father looking very tired and apprehensive. He said that he had not been getting very much sleep due to the the noise on the roof. He also said that on occasions he was now also hearing banging sounds which were very disruptive. Although it was not quite as windy now as it had been on the previous couple of evenings, I had a look up at the east facing panels from the end of the garden. I could see nothing alarming or untoward from this distance. However, I could see some loose cabling under the right hand panel, maybe this was flapping around and causing the noises!

On Tuesday 3rd January, the installation company was back in touch and were arranging for their installations supervisor to visit and check the reported problems. He arrived mid-afternoon today, 4th January and started by investigating the noises coming from the roof on the east side. On inspection of both the east and west arrays, he found that 3 of the east facing solar panels were loose and not clamped tightly which was causing them to lift and bang down in the wind. This was immediately rectified together with the securing of loose wires under the panels with cable ties. One of the solar panels had to be removed completely to allow access to a roof tile that had not been refitted correctly at the time of installation. Finally, the scratched solar panels were found to be only surface marks and cleaned accordingly.

Feed-in Tariff Appeal

Statement by DECC spokesperson

On the FITs appeal, A DECC spokesperson said:

“We have lodged grounds of appeal with the Court of Appeal. We hope that permission will be granted for an appeal and that we can secure a hearing as soon as possible so that we can provide clarity for consumers and industry on the way forward following the consultation.

“The High Court’s decision was based on the view that the proposed approach to implementing new tariffs for solar PV is inconsistent with the FIT scheme’s statutory purpose of encouraging small-scale low-carbon electricity generation.

“We disagree with this for a number of reasons. The overriding aim of the proposed reduction in tariffs for solar PV (as set out in the recent consultation) is to ensure that over the long term as many people as possible are encouraged to install small scale low-carbon generation (including other technologies as well as solar PV) and benefit from the funding available for the FIT scheme. Without an urgent reduction in the current tariffs, which give a very generous return, the budget for the scheme would be severely depleted and there would be very little available for future solar PV generators, or for other technologies. Our view is that the urgent steps we have proposed to protect the scheme for the future are fully consistent with the scheme’s statutory purpose.

We have also made the point that the judicial review was premature as no decision has yet been taken, and a decision will only be taken after a full analysis of the responses to the consultation.”