Electricity meter going backwards? – a need for clear guidance from PV installers

by Paula on November 21, 2011

FREE BRIEFING: due to overwhelming interest in the issue of 'electricity usage meters going backwards after PV installation' we have produced a briefing note on the topic. Click here to contact us to request your FREE copy

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 over 50 'search term' hits to my website on this very subject.  It seems like there is quite a lot of confusion out there.

Given I wasn't told this would happen when my PV was commissioned, and, in fact, the electrician seemed to think that backwards running was normal, I have started to ask others with PV systems what their experiences have been.

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?

I would love to hear about the experiences of other PV owners in this situation, so please if you have come across this blog as a result of a search on the subject, leave a comment below or contact me directly through email.  I'd particularly like to hear from anyone who has had this situation for a year or more and what their experiences of dealing with the suppliers has been.

Related blog posts:

Being a PV generator: Lessons I have learnt Part 1

Being a PV generator: Lesson learnt Part 2

Unintended consequences of PV systems and meters running backwards

 

{ 144 comments… read them below or add one }

Marilyn November 30, 2013 at 11:37 am

Wow that was odd. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked
submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
Anyway, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

Reply

bert February 16, 2014 at 9:48 am

I have had a few pv systems installed.they r no regs regarding meters going backwards.thr elec company is told u have pv and they know what meter you have but don’t have the people to check this.you are not responsible for beening back charged for this.how ever to be real.they r going to notice after a month of sunshine.so in shirt the odds of it not beening noticed after 2 say 3 months meter reads is remote.they cannot charge you or estimate your bill.when the meter goes backwards.they use this system in some states in usa.thats why they have smaller systems.no fit there.so people dont want to give back to the grid for free.they use meters which go backwards

Reply

Chris Reardon March 6, 2014 at 11:20 pm

Hi. i had my solar system 3k installed in 2007. I remember the installer gleefully tellig me to look at the analogue meter as it turned backwards as the sun shone, when I wasn't using all of the produced electricity from my panels.I registered for my FIT's and, after months of trying to get the forms right, and dealing with helplines that seem to make the situation even more un-understandable, I started receiving payments. My payments are actually quite low, but I was happy to be getting a bit for what I produced. I have had VERY VERY low electricity bills since the panels were installed, so the FIT payments were just the icing on the cake..I thought all this reversing of the analogue meter was just normal. Then I made a fatal error of changing suppliers to save money – to NPOWER. Within 6 months with them they wanted to come and change the meter to a digital one..  This they have just now done (November 2013) and, gues what, my bills have doubled. I rang them, and they told me to have the old analogue turning back was ILLEGAL and it must have had a fault on it. This was completly unknown to me. I enquired about an export meter and they said they didn;t do them for systems as small as mine.I'm very disappointed now that I am "losing" the extra electricity I am making. All they suggested was doing my high energy things (washing machine, dishwasher, cooking) when the sun is out.

Thanks for you site.

Chris.

Reply

Jepson Dichaves May 8, 2014 at 11:17 am

Hi,

My analogue electric meter is turning backward after installation of 4.4Kw PV system here in Manila, Philippine. But I don't notice the reading is decreasing. Do all analogue meter reading will reduce bec of excess PV electricity production?

pls enlighten me on this issue. 

 

Thanks

 

Jepson

Reply

Chris May 13, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Found this blog whilst looking for answers on this subject. I was suprised their was not more out there on this subject TBH. We are in same boat as u guys, didn't realise it was a possible issue until we changed suppliers and second reading wa lower Han the first. They have since contacted us to say they intend to change our old meter

So my question to the floor is this:

Do we have to get rid of our old meter? We are happy to have a new one installed and to have also readings from, but want to keep the old one as a guide on how efficient our solar pannels are running. On a sunny day the wheel dial runs backwards superfast! And we like to have this (can't explain quite why). I've looked at legislation I can find and seems the electric board own our meter… But does that mean they have power to remove and disconnect our old one as well… I imagine the answer is yes, but thought I would throw it out there…. They are coming in 15 days so answers on a post card before then please :D

Chris

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be May 14, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I had my solar installed, and then my electric meter began going back. Last year reading is less than this year.  so the company N power sent a letter to ask for the correct reading, for which I have no answer.  I am bit at loss if they change my meter to digital which has lock to anti revind.

dont know what to do

Reply

Jenny July 1, 2014 at 5:57 pm

I've just had free solar panels installed and didn't think the meter going backwards was a problem until I tried to input a meter reading online.  I'm currently with Scottish power but with the potential saving from the panels wanted to change to a different supplier who charges a lower standing charge. I've emailed Scottish Power so I'll let you know the outcome.

Reply

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