Do Smart Meters Work with Solar Panels? (2023 Guide)
The use of solar panels to generate electricity is becoming increasingly popular, and with good reason. Along with reducing energy bills and being environmentally friendly, the technology has become more affordable and accessible for homeowners.
However, as the demand for solar energy continues to increase, so does the need for technology that can effectively monitor and manage electricity consumption. This has led to many people asking the question ‘Can smart meters be used with solar panels?’.
Keep reading this post to find out.
What does a smart meter do?
A smart meter is an advanced device that measures the amount of energy used by a household or business and sends this information to the energy supplier.
These meters differ from traditional meters as they can be used to measure your energy usage in near-real-time, giving you more accurate information about how you use electricity. This information can help you understand how much energy you’re using, when you’re using it, and how much it’s costing you.
By offering a higher level of transparency and visibility into energy patterns, smart meters can empower users to make informed decisions and adopt more energy-efficient practices, consequently reducing their carbon footprint and saving on energy bills. Therefore, combining solar panels with smart meters can lead to significant financial and environmental benefits.
How do smart meters work with solar panels?
Solar panels work by harnessing the energy from the sun and converting it into electricity. Any electricity generated by the panels is fed into an inverter which converts it from DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current) which can be used to power your home.
This energy is either consumed immediately within the property, sent back to the grid, or even sold back to the grid through the Smart Export Guarantee – but more on that later on.
Smart meters are designed to monitor and distinguish between these scenarios. With a feature called ‘export metering’, smart meters can track the excess solar energy that is being fed back into the grid, allowing energy suppliers to reimburse consumers for their contributions.
A smart meter is then installed to measure the electricity you’re using from the national grid, as well as the electricity you’re exporting from your solar panels back to the grid. The smart meter can also measure the electricity being generated by your solar panels and provide you with real-time information on how much energy you’re generating.
However, smart meters and solar panels didn’t always work so hand in hand.
The difference between a first and second-generation smart meter
The first and second-generation smart meters (SMETS1 and SMETS2, respectively) have several distinctions that make a significant difference in their compatibility with solar panels.
The SMETS1 meters were an initial step towards modernising energy monitoring. However, these early models often posed compatibility issues with solar panel systems due to limited functionality in tracking exported energy back to the grid.
Additionally, SMETS1 meters displayed a tendency to lose smart functions if users switched energy suppliers, reverting to a standard meter and resulting in inaccurate readings. This could potentially complicate the solar panel experience and associated benefits.
Conversely, the SMETS2 meters were explicitly designed with compatibility and accuracy in mind.
Advanced in terms of functionality, they resolved the drawback of losing smart capabilities when consumers changed suppliers. This helped ensure seamless communication between different supplier infrastructures, allowing for greater interoperability.
For solar panel users, SMETS2 meters provide more accurate readings for export metering, offering users precise tracking of electricity generated and exported to the grid, simplifying the process of obtaining credits through schemes like the Smart Export Guarantee.
While both generations of smart meters are compatible with solar panel systems, the second-generation meters offer superior functionality and accuracy, consequently maximising the potential benefits of solar energy generation.
Is it worth getting a smart meter?
Having a smart meter for your solar panels is not a mandatory feature but it is a fantastic way of maximising the efficiency and effectiveness of your solar energy system.
However, you may still be asking yourself, ‘Should I have a smart meter?‘.
Investing in a smart meter for your solar panel system can offer significant advantages in terms of energy efficiency, cost savings, and environmental benefits. The key lies in understanding your energy usage patterns and making informed decisions to optimise your solar potential.
Firstly, smart meters provide instant access to real-time data on both energy consumption and solar generation, equipping you with the necessary information to adjust your habits and cut back on wasteful energy practices. For instance, you may choose to run energy-intensive appliances during peak solar generation hours, minimising your grid dependence and making the most of your generated solar power.
Furthermore, remote monitoring capabilities offered by smart meters decrease the chances of estimated billing inaccuracies, ensuring you only pay for the energy you have consumed. They also prove useful in the early detection of potential technical issues with your solar panels, allowing for swift resolution and reduced maintenance costs.
Finally, using a smart meter promotes eco-friendly practices by empowering you with data to make educated decisions regarding your energy use. Reducing dependence on grid-supplied electricity not only reduces your energy bills but also curtails the environmental impact by easing the demand for non-renewable resources.
Smart meter government schemes
Another key reason for installing a smart meter in your solar PV system is that it can enhance the financial incentives linked to solar panel installations.
By accurately tracking your energy export data, smart meters make it easier for you to claim credits under schemes, helping you get paid for creating energy.
The two most prominent government schemes for a solar smart meter are:
Smart Export Guarantee
Lower the cost of solar with the ECO Scheme
Smart meter or not, solar energy is a great way to lower your carbon footprint and save up to £610 a year on your energy bills – especially when the SEG is utilised.
However, it’s no secret that the cost of installing solar panels can be exceptionally high.
Luckily, through the fourth phase of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme, eligible UK homes could see massive savings on the installation of solar panels and other energy-efficient measures.
Aptly named the ECO4 Scheme, the government initiative is aimed at helping the UK’s most energy-inefficient homes tackle fuel poverty and save on their energy bills.
Match this government funding with the 0% VAT on green energy installations until 2027, and you could see savings of over £1,000!