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My electricity meter is running backwards: who is responsible?

Q: My solar PV clients are seeing their electricity meters running backward now that the days are longer, and they are unsure how they should treat this with their electricity supplier now that they have become aware.

My understanding is that the supplier remains responsible for accurately measuring what is used and the customer for paying for that use. The difficulty arises in that without an export meter (and many don’t yet have one) there is no way of correctly calculating what has in fact been used and therefore how far the generated energy has turned the clock back. This could go on for some time of course as suppliers fail to realise there might be an issue.

Some feed-in tariff (FIT) licensees ask whether we have noticed the clock running back, but not all, and in most cases our FIT licensee is different to our FIT supplier. The honest answer to that question at the time of commissioning is “no” and it seems unclear as to whether there is any responsibility on the generator to update their FIT licensee if they become aware of such changes.

My clients are tending to take the financial advantage while they can but some are worried that it could all catch up with them and that they are running the risk of an argument with their supplier in the future about what is in fact owed for their real use.

Do you have any guidance or could you direct me to someone who knows the legal position on this?

A: I have checked with Ofgem on where the responsibilities lie in cases like this. When a solar PV, wind turbine or micro hydro system is joined to the national grid, the installer must tell the DNO (district network operator).

The DNO is then obliged to tell the microgenerator’s import supplier (the company from which they buy electricity).

The electricity supplier has the responsibility to ensure that the supply meter is fit for purpose, and therefore should replace the meter if installation of solar panels (or other micro generation) causes it to record imported electricity inaccurately.

If a customer wants to install an export meter to measure output from a renewable generating station then it is their responsibility to [commission someone to] fit the meter.

In the case of people whose FIT supplier has asked them whether their meter is running backwards, and had (honestly at the time) answered no; they should probably tell their supplier as soon as they do notice. But if they haven’t asked, they have no obligation to tell.

Date: 06/06/2012
Author: Cathy Debenham

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