How smart meters and solar panels work together
In a bid to help reduce the UK’s carbon emissions, the government set out a strategy in 2020 to encourage UK households to install a smart meter. However, what’s the relationship between smart meters and solar panels? We know that smart meters allow you to have greater control over your energy usage and solar panels help to reduce your energy bills, but how do they work together?
The government argues that not only do smart meters significantly help to reduce emissions, but they can also save consumers money on their energy bills. As recorded at the end of September 2022, 30.3 million smart and advanced meters have been installed in homes and small businesses across the UK, which seems to suggest that the rollout plan is working.
In this article, we explore whether getting a smart meter and solar panels installed is a positive step, and if they can help bring your energy bills down further while moving towards a greener future.
What are smart meters?
Smart meters record the exact amount of energy you consume by measuring the current flow and voltage at regular intervals. They use this reading to calculate your usage, which is handily displayed on the smart meter (along with what it’ll cost you), so you can monitor your usage and how much you spend each month on energy.
This data then gets sent to your supplier, who is able to provide you with an accurate bill – eliminating the need for estimated bills. With a smart meter, you no longer need to manually record your meter readings and send them to the supplier. All of this is done automatically and you will be charged the correct amount for what you use.
How do smart meters and solar panels work together?
Smart meters and solar panels will work in unison to help increase your energy savings and reduce emissions. When your smart meter is connected to a solar panel system, it can take accurate readings of how much energy your home is using from the system and how much it’s importing from the grid (and exporting). This recording then automatically gets sent to your supplier in exactly the same way as just having a smart meter.
Combining a smart meter and solar panels could help you to avoid expensive peak prices, plus solar energy helps you to gain independence from energy suppliers and their tariffs. This means that installing smart meters and solar panels could save you a considerable amount of money every year, which is extremely beneficial as energy prices continue to soar.
It’s important to note that some energy providers have been a little slow in setting up their systems to be compatible with solar panels, so make sure you double-check with your supplier first. The good news is that the majority of the bigger companies already have this covered.
You’ll also want to check whether you have a first generation smart meter (SMETS1) or a second generation smart meter (SMETS2). This is because some first generation smart meters could have compatibility issues with solar panels. This isn’t the case with second generation smart meters, which were launched in 2018 and work well with solar panels.
Can you use solar panels without a smart meter?
Smart meters are not mandatory for homeowners with solar panels. However, there are plenty of benefits. Owning a smart meter means you don’t need to manually take readings to see how much energy your solar panels are generating, as this will all be done automatically for you.
A smart meter will also provide more accurate readings, so you can manage your energy consumption better and know you’re getting charged the right amount each month. So, while having a smart meter and solar panels may not be essential, it’s highly recommended that you pair the two together.
Without a smart meter, you won’t be able to utilise the Smart Export Guarantee.
Smart meters and the Smart Export Guarantee
The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) was launched by the UK government on the 1st of January 2020. This scheme means that homeowners producing renewable solar energy are entitled to be compensated by their electricity supplier for exporting surplus energy back to the grid. This ‘export tariff’ is calculated for each unit of electricity that’s provided for the National Grid.
The amount you’re entitled to is more accurately recorded when you have a smart meter installed, as previously mentioned, the device can take automatic readings regularly. With the help of a smart meter, your energy supplier knows exactly how many kWh your household is sending to the grid.
By law, all companies with more than 150,000 customers have to offer an SEG tariff and compensate their customers for each unit of electricity that is exported to the grid from solar panels. For smaller companies, this remains optional.Find out how much solar could save you today
Is a smart meter worth it?
Like with all things in life, there are some pros and cons associated with having a smart meter. The advantages of smart meters and solar panels working together are already clear, but let’s take a closer look at smart meters as an individual product.
- You no longer have to manually record meter readings
- Estimated bills are a thing of the past
- More accurate readings
- Real-time data means you can manage your energy consumption
- Can save you money
- Free installation
- Second generation smart meters are compatible with solar panels
- Signal strength can sometimes be unreliable
- Can be concerning for privacy-conscious customers
- You may have to wait until you’re eligible
With all things considered, it’s clear to see that the benefits of having a smart meter outweigh the negatives. While smart meters aren’t compulsory, they do make your life considerably easier – allowing you to enjoy greater profitability of the photovoltaic system, controlling production, consumption and energy poured into the grid at all times in real time.
Smart meter and solar panels FAQs
How do you read smart meters and solar panels?
If you have a smart meter and solar panels, then taking readings is really simple. By looking at the display on your smart reader, you’ll be able to see exactly how much energy is being imported from the grid and how much solar energy you’re exporting back.
What interferes with a smart meter?
As smart meters rely on mobile technology, a weak signal could potentially disrupt the connection and impact its performance. This may be an issue if you live in a very rural area.
Can I refuse to have a smart meter?
Yes, you can turn down the opportunity to have a smart meter installed. While owning a smart meter isn’t mandatory, it’s advised by the government and can make your life a lot easier.
Can I change suppliers if I have a smart meter installed?
Changing suppliers if you already have a smart meter installed is simple. The only time complications may occur is if you still have a first generation smart meter, which will mean your new supplier may not be able to operate it automatically and manual readings will need to be recorded.