We received the below email from a consumer and CHOICE supporter, which we though would be interesting to share for discussion. Energy Australia was unable to deliver on its promise of a solar panel cleaning service, and it is also unable to provide energy generation stats via the required smart meter, which costs $10 per month. There’s also a question of value with the new Solar Basic Booster plan.
We think it’s a bit unfair, as the $100 compensation does not cover the cost of cleaning the panels for a start, but we’d love to hear what our @Energy-Campaigner group along with other Community members have to say. Please share your opinions or advice below.
Here is the consumer’s email:
"Energy Australia now concedes that it is unable to supply the solar panel cleaning service that I signed up for (it has cost me $180 to have them cleaned privately), it is unable to supply me with any generating statistics (it claims my meter does not track what I generate – only what I use and what I send to the grid).
So it wants to charge me $10/mth for a smart meter that apparently cannot measure what power I generate – all it can do is report on when I am not sending any power to the grid (ie using what I am generating). This is useless as I do not want to sell any of my power to Energy Australia because they don’t pay me enough for it, but because they can’t tell me what I generate and when, I cannot match my usage to my generation. And they still want to charge me $10/mth for the smart meter! In fact they have now admitted on the phone, but refuse to put in writing, that there are only three months in each year where I can recoup the $10/mth from what I sell back to the grid. In each of the other 9 months I cannot generate $10 worth of revenue! And now they tell me that if I drop the $10/mth option they will allow that, but then I will never be able to re-instate it!
It’s an absurd situation when I would never have entered into the Solar Booster Plan in September 2016 if I’d known I could not realise any benefit from it! And the new Solar Basic Booster Plan is a fraud because they admit on he phone that it is impossible for me to recoup the $120 annual fee from the proceeds of selling power back to the grid."
Just to clarify - the $10/mth is to get the 6c/kWh bonus so the $120/yr cost of that has to be recouped from the bonus - not from the whole 18c/kWh because 12c of that I would get without paying anything extra.
The real evil is that Energy Australia signed a contract and then simply unilaterally repudiated it but claimed it’s not unilateral because the customer had to ‘agree’ to the variation. Of course, if the customer does not agree, they would keep paying $20/mth extra without getting any of the promised benefits apart from the smart meter (which is so state of the art it cannot measure what is being generated!). Anyone in that situation is being flagrantly defrauded!
And to top it all off Energy Australia’s website has since the beginning of 2017 proclaimed prominently adjacent my usage graph “Solar customers please note that very shortly we will be adding details of your solar generation alongside your electricity consumption data”, thus misrepresenting that compliance with the contract I signed in September 2016 was imminent. The statement remains despite the more recent concession that they actually have no idea how much I’m generating because it’s only being measured if I don’t use it and pass it through to the grid!
Hard to believe I am alone in this experience - I would certainly like to hear from any Energy Australia customers who signed up to the Solar Bonus Scheme in 2016 to see what has become of their arrangement.
As I have come to realize with @gordon’s help the power that is generated is recorded by the inverter, not by the smart meter. The smart meter only records the amount of energy produced in excess of what is consumed. As I understand it, the smart meter is necessary for recording how much power you pump back to the grid. The old meters only measure what comes from the grid to you, and any from you to the grid isn’t measured. Some electricity companies charge for the smart meters, others provide them for free. (Ours is free.)
Our SMA SunnyBoy inverter has free software which can be downloaded and installed on a computer to download (via Bluetooth) information on the performance of the panels. This is how we know how much power is produced.
Hardware (with appropriate software) is now being produced to remotely monitor the performance of PV panels in real time, and the capability to send warnings if there is an issue, or production drops.
I have only just started looking at Solar Analytics (https://www.solaranalytics.com/au/how-it-works) , so I don’t know much about it, but it also looks at the weather and compares output to weather. If there is a discrepancy it will send out a warning. All this requires a SIM card in the hardware to send out messages.
We have our panels cleaned once a year. Based on our experience, paying $180 to have panels cleaned is a lot.
Perhaps it is time to look for a new electricity retailer?
564.00 mine cost … their one last swipe at the wallet hopefully
Mine has WiFi - the software you talk of for Sunnyboy has no WiFi version sadly. Web interface is good, but the internal accounting code is buggy and only updates previous days at 0930 local (midnight Zulu - so they don’t even understand how to code for timezones) - yet it’s all reported in local time. If for some reason the unit is off at 0930 then it just stays messed up until tomorrow, so obviously the rollover is a one time hit or miss affair …
I’ve been looking at the Sunny Home Manager 2.0 for similar reasons - understanding more than just net flow. More real-time would be nice as well, and it seems the inverter and SHM support to some extent Modbus for which perl modules exist - might be a bit old school to poke values into MRTG but it means I could monitor everything on a Raspberry Pi and not rely on anyone else. The SHM is around the $800 installed from memory …
That all aside - is there such a thing as a smart meter supplied by the electricity company that does anything more than show net flow of energy?
I imagine you’d need to be careful what is used to clean the panels - but 180/yr seems like daylight robbery (pardon the pun …)
I have it on ‘excellent authority’ that the meters we have here (Email Westinghouse or Landis & Gyr spinning disc type), on a sunny day with solar connected, will spin madly in reverse and the counters will quite happily go backwards … ‘so I’ve been told’ The official story from the power company pirates is that they are not allowed to be used as they are not certified to run in reverse … apparently …
Sadly it doesn’t have Wi-Fi; and I have to be outside standing next to the inverter to get the bluetooth to connect reliably.
I have had a look at the downloadable Quick Reference Guide for the Sunny Home Manager (http://files.sma.de/dl/29870/HM-20-IS-en-10.pdf). According to that, it is not Wi-Fi, it is LAN cable connectable to your router or modem. With our setup, it would not be possible to run a cable to it. I wonder if a Wi-Fi USB dongle would work?
It also talks about limiting power output to the grid (as per German legislation) and diverting it to a battery. I didn’t see anything about what happen if you don’t have a battery.
Not that I know of. Perhaps there has been some misunderstanding?
Some grid-connect inverters (and good quality MPPT charge controllers for off-grid systems) can limit output by raising the voltage of the PV string above the maximum power point, in order to reduce output current. For grid-connected inverters, a battery is not required for this to work. In some areas where there is a reasonably high number of solar installations, due to undersized wires and transformers on the grid, putting too much current back into the grid cases too much voltage rise, so restrictions are imposed by the network operator.
Yes. Smart meters can be operated remotely to cut your electricity off if you dont pay your bill on time! I understand there has been a significant increase in people being disconnected for non/late payment, since it is much easier to now, no one has to visit the house and negotiate with the guard dog.
Certainly some smart meters have a number of registers that record imports and exports, and were used when gross metering was a thing. Discovering what each register records can be tricky though, electricity companies don’t seem keen on revealing that information, from what I have heard.
I believe there is an ‘over power line’ protocol as well, but unsure of details. Not sure about USB dongle but I’ve used small WiFi access points as ‘connectors’ for various things, just need to make sure it will transparently bridge.
My Sunnboy has options for that as well, but it’s turned off.
I reckon the misunderstanding will be in the Lies Department, sorry did I say that, I meant Marketing Department of the relevant electricity company
There is a possible fix for this that is pretty cheap. You get a 3 (or shorter) metre USB extension cable with a female and male end (longer will affect power and thus signal strength at the PC but you are welcome to experiment), plug a micro Bluetooth receiver into the female end and plug the other end into your PC. Place the BT end facing and as close as possible to the sender (in this case the Inverter) and see whether you get reception or not. If still no then you will need to make a aluminum foil cone around the cable at the BT end to act as a dish to focus the BT signal from the inverter on the BT receiver, You will have to place the BT receiver at the focus point of the cone/dish.
If you want to make a sturdier dish use a metal kitchen sieve with a handle
line it with aluminum foil (make it as smooth as you can) & then cut a small aperture through the mesh in the middle poke your cable through and fix it in place ) epoxy works well on the back. If the cable droops in the dish just use some plastic ducting or a larger than the cable diameter straw cut to size (and along it’s length so you can insert the cable) to brace it and set the ducting into the epoxy. Use the handle to make a stand and point it at the inverter. This should work well and require less leg work in the future.
Ah Mr Turnbull is doing doing it again because the Liberal party has tied his hands behind his back. They want solar to fail. Get onto Alibaba.com spend a week or to buy some good “cheap” Lithium batteries. You’ll need at least 6kw Hrs (I’ve see this for as little as $4,000) of batteries. Get a gas stove / cook top and one or two solar hot water systems/panels (depending on the size of your family) If you can’t afford a good size “battery” (biggest is best), get a smaller one and add on later. If you don’t have enough panels get a big battery charger and put it on a smart meter with off-peak power (19c/kw/hr - cheapest power you can buy) then use this to charge the batteries at night (early morning) when the power is cheapest or if you know an electrical wholesaler, 250W panels are now around $190 ea. Get a battery management system with it and it’ll l be 50% of a Tesla Power wall… You need the battery manager so you can hook up a laptop to data log and see whats going on, really cheap <$80 and a must have … Get off the grid… Then sign up to sell power when they “REALLY” need it - you’ll get up to 60c / kw hr depending on who you use. Make them pay. Better yet set up a micro grid with your neighbours.
Interesting to note that the “power distributors” are now complaining that solar is being generated at the “wrong times” they want the panels facing west where the’ll get the most benefit to them at peak time - after 4:30 pm but of least benefit to you… Go figure.
Hi, I had to pay and have my new smart meter fitted by a certified electrician as I am signed up with AGL. When I sign up with them for my power and Gas I was promised it would be done with in five month as time passed over eight month still can’t get any answers but given names and the meter with fitting cast me over $400 I was told by AGL due to the delay I would get 7 cents rebate recived my current bill today been back dated since February with adjustment can’t find the seven cents rebate only the percentage discount looks like a few phone calls?
Hi @bigalan7, sounds like trouble. Give AGL a call and let them know that unless they are willing to compensate you accordingly, that you’ll be making a complaint to the ombudsmen. If you’re willing, it would be good to hear how you get along.
I have installed the Reposit power management system in my 8kW panels plus 12kW battery system and I really pleased with the information it generates. Australian company with excellent mobile platform based infographics for grid and solar power management. I have also changed to Diamond Energy and happy with their prices, service and communications.
We recently had a Tesla battery installed and have been pleasantly surprised at the information provided through their mobile phone app. It shows energy usage through the day alongside solar output and flows to and from the battery and grid. You can superimpose any combination in the same chart. Simply having detailed visibility of our consumption has allowed us to cut down about 20% through simple measures. Monitoring is via the Backup Gateway, which may be an optional component — it also takes you off the grid if there is a power cut. The SolarEdge (inverter) app has more detailed reporting of solar generation. Both the Tesla gateway and inverter communicate via wifi.