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12 Aug 2017

Smart meters and solar panels: what's the sticking point?

Find out which energy firms will install smart meters with solar PV
Smart meter and solar panels

Solar-panel owners have been refused smart meters, or faced problems when they've had them installed, Which? research reveals. But some firms can now support smart meters if you have solar panels, and more improvements are in the pipeline.

In a survey of 1,265 solar-panel owners*, 5% of those who were offered, or applied for, a smart meter were told by their energy firmthey couldn't haveone because of their solar panels.

Of the 18% who did have a smart electricity meter fitted, more than half (53%) told us they'd had problems with measuring electricity generated and exported since their smart meter was installed.

Some energy firms admitted they've had problems with installing smart meters in homes with solar panels. Read on to find out whether your supplier is now up and running, plus the latest announcements on smart and renewable energy at home.

Solar experts and solar-panel owners reveal all you need to know aboutmaking the most of your solar panels.

Energy firms installing smart meters with solar panels

EDF Energy told us it has already installed smart meters for customers with solar panels.

British Gas, First Utility, Ovo Energy and Utilita told us that they're also able to install smart meters if you have solar panels.

SSE says it's able to install, but advises its customers to wait until technical constraints are resolved.

Eon and Npower are not yet installing smart meters for customers with solar PV. Eon hopes to do so 'in the coming months', following industry-wide technical problems in the earlier stages of the roll-out that have now been resolved.

Scottish Power said it could not share this information with us, as it is commercially sensitive.

Solar panels andin-home displays

All smart (SMETS) meters can measure energy consumed (imported) and exported back into the grid, the government department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) told us.

But Smart Energy GB, the body responsible for consumer awareness of smart meters, states that in-home displays only show how much energy you're buying from your supplier. In future, these displays may also be able to show electricity you're generating yourself.

Solar-panel owners should have a PV-generation meter that shows how much electricity their system is generating.

If you're getting a smart meter installed, make sure that your supplier is aware you have solar panels. Check whether your smart meter and in-home display will work fully with them.

Smart meters and solar panels: top problems

The IHD or app not showing electricity generated and exported is the most common problem reported by solar-panel owners who have a smart electricity meter. Nearly a fifth (17%) of solar PV owners with a smart meter said they'd experienced this.

Problems with the smart meter measuring the electricity generated and exported was a problem for 11% of smart meter owners.

Another quarter of respondents told us they'd had a different problem.

home battery

The future of smart meters

Smart meters are a key part of plans to bring new technology into your home and give you more control over your energy use, according to BEIS.

It says that its plans, announced last week, will save up to £40 billion on energy costs over decades, 'transform how homes and businesses store and use energy' and 'deliver a smarter, more flexible energy system by removing barriers to smart and battery technology, reducing costs for consumers'.

Smart meter essentials- our guide to the smart meter roll-out and what you need to know.

Technology to look out for

  • Smart energy tariffs, including time-of-use tariffs, which charge lower prices for electricity when it's cheapest.
  • Smart appliancesthat respond to the grid. For example, fridge freezers that turn off for a short period when there's a nationwide spike in electricity use, or washing machinesthat turn on at off-peak times when electricity is cheaper.
  • Home batteries that store electricity generated by solar panels, or from the national grid. Moixa is already paying households £50 per year to install a home battery which charges when there's surplus power in the network, and exports it again when electricity demand is high.
  • Electric vehicle charge-points where you could charge your car when electricity demand is low, and be paid if you feed electricity back into the grid when it's needed. Nissan is looking at whether electric cars could be used as 'virtual power plants'.

Find out more about renewable electricity and heating options for your home in our solar panels, ground-source heat pumps and renewable heating advice guides.

*Online survey: 1,265 Which? members with solar PV, Jun 2017.