Export and Smart Meters
Export and Smart Meters have had a slow and frustrating start to life. This is not down to the Smart Meters themselves as they all operate with exported power and have done so for many years. The problem is the implementation of the systems by suppliers to support even basic export functionality. Even today many suppliers have not bothered to implement export functionality in their systems for the following reasons:
- Low number of export customers
- High implementation costs
- Low profit margins
- Export customers require more service support
- Government drivers are based on the number of smart meter installations, not on the range of functionality supported.
There is one current export tariff scheme, the Smart Export Guarantee. The older Feed in Tariff scheme has ended for new customers.
Feed in Tariff (FIT)
The FIT scheme was created to encourage homeowners to invest in renewable or low carbon energy generating technology, such as:
- Solar panels
- Wind turbines
- Hydro turbines
- Anaerobic digestion
- Micro-combined heat and power (micro-CHP).
Contracts under the scheme were generally for 20 - 25 years at a fixed rate published by Ofgem. Installations had to have a peak output of no more than 5 MW, or 2 kW for micro-CHP and be certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, or the ROO-FIT process for hydro and anaerobic digestion.
FIT payments are calculated in two parts:
- The Generation Tariff
- You get paid this fixed rate for the total amount of electricity you produce. There are different tariff rates according to the type of installation you have. If you have an export meter, you will be paid for exactly how much you generate.
- The Export Tariff
- You get paid this fixed rate for the amount of electricity that you put back to the National Grid. If you don't have an export meter then your export amount is estimated to be 50% of what you generate (except for hydro installations at 75%) - this is known as Deemed Export. If you have an export meter, you will be paid for exactly how much you generate.
The tariff rate varies depending on when your contract started. When the FIT scheme was first introduced in April 2010 exporters were receiving over 40p per kWh of electricity. This tariff was reduced on a quarterly basis until, in March 2019 when the scheme closed, applicants received less than 4p for generated electricity and just over 5p for exported electricity.
The FIT rates are published annually on 1st April by Ofgem.
The FIT scheme closed in March 2019 because uptake had been much higher than anticipated. Anyone already registered with the scheme will continue to receive their FIT payments for the full 20-25 year term, and can if they wish switch to the Smart Export Guarantee scheme. However FIT rates were very generous when the scheme first launched so it's unlikely that you will earn as much from switching to a SEG tariff compared with your FIT tariff.
Ofgem have provided a good document describing the FIT scheme for exporters.
Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)
The Smart Export Guarantee started on 1st January 2020 and is a scheme introduced by the government to enable owners of certain renewable energy technologies to earn an income by selling their excess electricity to the National Grid. The SEG scheme is available to owners of renewable energy generation systems including solar photovoltaic (solar PV) panels, wind, micro combined heat and power (CHP), hydro and anaerobic digestion (AD) with an export capacity of 5MW or less (50kW or less for micro-CHP); anything bigger than this falls under normal commercial schemes and not the SEG government supported scheme.
The generation system you install needs to include a smart meter which tracks how much electricity is being exported; all smart meters are capable of this. Half hourly measurement is not essential.
Note that electricity sourced form a battery is not necessarily eligible for payments under SEG, this is up to individual suppliers.
The scheme legally requires energy suppliers with more than 150,000 customers to provide at least one export only tariff, i.e. you do not need to have your import tariff with that same supplier. Beyond this other export tariffs may be combined with import tariffs. Smaller suppliers can also facilitate the scheme on a voluntary basis.
How much you receive will depend on which SEG licensed energy supplier's export tariff you choose. The government has said that energy suppliers must offer more than 0p per kWh at all times in order to encourage exporters. This is relevant as the half-hourly price of electricity sometimes goes negative, but this rule means you won't have to pay the supplier when you export at those times.
Your SEG licensee does not always need to be the same company which supplies your electricity, so you have the option to shop around for the best deal.
Application for SEG
These are the steps your supplier will probably take when you apply for SEG.
- Install a smart meter if you don't already have one.
- Request from you proof of your ID showing your full name.
- Request from you proof of your address.
- Request from you proof of ownership of the generator.
- Request from you a copy of the MCS (Micro-generation certification scheme) certificate or equivalent scheme certificate. This is to demonstrate the installation and installer are suitably certified.
- Request from you a copy of the G59/G83/G98/G99 form sent to the DNO (Distribution Network Operator) by your installer and the response if your generator has a declared net capacity of greater than 16A per phase. This is to show that your generator has been approved by the DNO.
- The supplier will check with Ofgem that your generator is not receiving FIT export payments. You can't receive both.
- Register a new export MPAN (Meter Point Administration Number) with the DNO if your generator doesn't already have one.
- Most suppliers do not pay for export from batteries (known as brown energy) and therefore require proof that the battery export will not be measured by the export meter. It is upto each supplier whether they include brown energy or not.
- Set up your export account on their billing system.
- Request from you an initial export meter reading with an image as evidence.
Fixed or Variable Tariff
At the moment most SEG tariffs are fixed price meaning that the price you receive per kWh will not change no matter what happens to the wholesale price of electricity or the time of day your electricity is exported. Fixed means that the price is set for the contract length.
A variable tariff mean that the supplier can change the price they pay having given you the notice period stated in the contract. Over time it is expected that more tariffs will become variable. With a smart tariff you could, for example, receive a higher price for electricity you export during times of peak demand. Some tariffs may offer a different rate depending on whether you export at night or during the day or prices could vary every half-hour to reflect market prices.
For PV, wind and micro-CHP installations up to 50kW, applicants to SEG will be asked to demonstrate that their installation and installer are suitably certified. This may be a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certificate, but other schemes are available.
|Technology||Capacity||Installation certification?||Installer certification?|
|Micro-CHP, solar PV, wind||≤50kW||Yes||Yes|
|Micro-CHP, solar PV, wind||>50kW-5MW||Yes||No|
Ofgem have provided a good document giving the details of the SEG scheme for exporters.
Suppliers' SEG Tariffs
As all large suppliers are required to offer a SEG tariff it is worth shopping around for the best rate - they vary wildly!
We believe that exporters should be paid for what they export based on market rates. As the electricity market is priced every half-hour it makes sense to have an export tariff with half-hourly pricing. Octopus are the only company with a half-hourly tariff, although this is in the beta stage currently.
Comparison of FIT and SEG
The evolution of government backed schemes has been driven by the extent to which subsides occur and the availability of Smart Meters. So the earlier scheme was more generous and estimated the export, whereas the latest scheme is less generous and uses Smart Meters to measure the actual export.
|Subject||Feed-in Tariff||Smart Export Guarantee|
|Tariff range||Same tariff for all applicants, regardless of electricity supplier, set by Ofgem.||Different tariffs depending on which electricity supplier you choose.|
|Tariff type||Fixed tariff for 20-25 years after installation.||Suppliers can change tariff and offer options such as fixed or flexible.|
|Electricity payments||Two payments: generated electricity and estimated exported electricity.||A single payment for exported electricity.|
|Payments calculation||Generated electricity is metered but exported electricity usually estimated at 50% of generation.||Exported electricity metered by a smart meter (30 minute readings).|
|Certification required||MCS certification||MCS or equivalent, e.g. Flexi-Orb|
|Scheme funding||The FIT was paid for by a levy on all customers' energy bills.||The SEG is paid by energy companies who buy the power.|
What certification is required?
Any power source which gets connected to the public electricity grid must have the appropriate certification. This confirms that it operates safely and within the supply limitations. For example if the grid fails, all power sources must detach themselves in order avoid electrocuting engineers who will be working on the overhead lines and cables to restore power.
The ENA (Energy Networks Association) have an excellent web page giving the full details of what is required including all the forms: https://www.energynetworks.org/operating-the-networks/connecting-to-the-networks.
The two types of certification you require will be one for the equipment you are installing and another for the installation itself.
If your equipment has been type approved then you will need to use G98 to make an application, or if your equipment is not yet type approved or is customised then you will need the G99 application process. However the DNO could push you down the G99 route if they are not happy with the performance of the equipment in some way.
You can search on the Energy Networks Association website to see if your equipment is approved on the ENA Type Test Register.
EREC (Engineering Recommendation) G98 applies to equipment which is pre-tested by the manufacturer and may not supply more than 3.68kW or 16A per phase to the grid. In this category would be most off-the-shelf solar PV inverters. Before 27th April 2019 the G83 approval process applied.
G100 is a variant of G98 where there is more than 3.68kW of connected generation, but will only provide 3.68kW of that to the grid.
G99 covers anything else. So you can design and build any type of electrical generator, but the testing and on-site commissioning must be done by an authorised company, which in almost all cases is the local DNO. Before 27th April 2019 the G59 approval process applied.
Certification of the installation and the installer where required should be carried out by certification bodies who hold UKAS accreditation to standards EN 45011 or EN ISO/IEC 17065:2012. Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) is often used for SEG certification. (Page updated: 2021-04-26)
Questions & Answers
Half-hourly electricity data:
- 13 months of consumption (Active Energy Import)
- 3 months of active energy exported
- 3 months of reactive energy imported
- 3 months of reactive energy exported.
- 3 months of half-hourly consumption
- 13 months of monthly consumption.
If the solar panels haven't been registered for FIT, then you can only get SEG (Smart Export Guarantee) payments. (Updated: 2021-04-21)
We suggest you check with your own supplier whether they can support export yet. (Updated: 2021-02-12)
The new owners of your house will need to sign a new contract. (Updated: 2021-04-21)
- Active energy import (Wh) - this is what we are billed for normally
- Reactive energy import (varh)
- Active energy export (Wh) - this is your useful export power
- Reactive energy export (varh).