Solar Metering FAQ
Frequently asked questions about Australian solar meters and metering
What is solar metering?
Solar metering involves using a measuring device that can calculate both the amount of power consumed by a user and the amount of power being sent back to the grid from the owner’s solar system.
While traditional electricity meters measure the amount of power flowing into your home from the grid, a solar meter is a bi-directional meter that measures the flow of electricity into and out of the solar power system so you can measure exactly how much electricity you are importing from and exporting to the power grid.
How does solar metering work in Australia?
Depending upon your electricity retailer and the Australian state in which you live, you may be able to “sell” some of the power generated by your solar system back to the grid. If eligible, your electricity provider may offer you a rebate, called a feed-In tariff (see below for further information on Feed-In Tariffs), for the electricity that your solar system feeds in to the grid.
If rebates are available for you to take advantage of, it is necessary for you to have a net meter or Smart Meter that can accurately measure the amount of unused electricity flowing out of your solar system and into the grid. These solar meters also allow you to use the electricity that your solar system produces in your home before exporting the excess power to the grid.
Net metering is great for homeowners and businesses, as each surplus kWh produced by their solar panels is credited against their electricity bill at the same value as the retail electricity price. Savings are based on the total number of kWh generated, regardless of how much of that is used or the amount exported to the grid.
It is important to note that net metering is no longer available on new solar power installations in New South Wales.
How is solar metering connected to feed-in tariffs?
Some electricity retailers offer feed-in tariffs (FIT), which are rebates offered by to solar system owners for the surplus power they feed back into the grid. However, this rebate is credited at a different rate, which is typically lower than the retail price.
This is because electricity retailers maintain that they are still responsible for costs associated with the transmission and distribution of the solar power returned to the grid, and the FIT for your solar is considered to have only enabled the retailer to avoid the generation costs.
Savings are based on the amount, or rate, quoted to you by your electricity retailer, and different electricity retailers will offer different rebates so it pays to shop around for the best deal. It also pays to have a good quality solar meter installed by a reputable and qualified electrician such as Real Electrical Solutions, so you know that your energy imports and exports are being accurately measured.
Why use a solar Battery?
When the government first began its push for domestic solar installations, to supplement the electricity production of coal-fired power plants, generous compensation and big bonuses were offered to consumers as an incentive to install solar systems. At that time, some FITs were, in fact, higher than the retail cost of energy, so it was far more profitable to consume the electricity needed for your home from the grid and export all solar power generated to the grid.
However, once this incentive scheme finished, FITs dropped dramatically and are now typically two to four times lower than the retail cost of energy. In instances where FITs are proving less profitable, it may pay to install a battery system to store excess power generated for later, rather than paying retail price for energy from the grid.
What kind of solar meters are available in Australia?
There are currently several types of electricity meters used in Australia, however solar meters are specifically designed to measure power being imported from and exported to the grid. All new meters installed in NSW are ‘digital interval meters’, which are a type of net meter.
The team at Real Electrical Solutions recommends a ‘smart interval reader’, otherwise known as a ‘Smart Meter’, and there are many reasons to have a Smart Meter installed. These meters digitally measure the amount of electricity used at the property and sends this information remotely to your electricity retailer, which removes the need for your electricity provider to send a meter reader to your premises every few months or to bill you for your estimated power usage, which is often far more than a household actually consumes.
Additionally, because these meters transmit energy consumption data to the electricity retailer at sub-hourly intervals, utilities companies are better able to pinpoint and respond to outages.
Many solar metering installations also collect data regarding the system’s solar energy production, and newer metering installations can even transmit this data to an app so that consumers can view data on mobile devices equipped with an internet connection.
These solar meters can also detect irregularities in the system and activate a warning, so that consumers can contact their electricity meter.
Do I need a new meter if I install a solar system?
It may be necessary to have your existing meter reconfigured (if possible), or to upgrade your existing electricity meter to a new bi-directional digital interval meter or Smart Meter. If you’re not certain whether your existing meter can be reconfigured to meet the requirements of your solar installation, and you would prefer to investigate this before investing in a new meter, seek the advice and/or assistance of a reputable licensed electrician, such as Real Electrical Solutions, based in Newcastle and the Hunter region, NSW.
A trustworthy, certified solar installer may also be able to advise you on the type or brand of Smart Meter that will work best with the solar system you plan to install.
Contact Real Electrical Solutions for solar meter and metering advice and installation
For personalised advice on smart meter or solar meter installations, talk to the ASP Level-2 electricians at Real Electrical Solutions. We are fully accredited to provide Smart/Solar meters for all energy retailers, including Energy Australia, Origin Energy, AGL, Ausgrid, and a host of other retailers.
Our after-hours emergency electrician services also ensure that, in the rare case of an emergency or any kind of issue with your power supply, we can help your premises get powered back up in no time. For inquiries, give us a call on 0403 306 842 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!