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Smart Meter Solar Panels: What Are They and Are They Worth Getting?

Energy costs have risen in the UK, and it's important to track how much energy you're using so you can keep your energy bills low.

If you've had solar panels installed at home, you can combine them with a smart meter to get accurate readings and track your energy consumption.

This guide will tackle questions like "Are smart meters compatible with solar panels?" and explain first and second-generation smart meters.

What Is a Smart Meter?

A smart meter is meant to show you at regular intervals exactly how much energy you use. With a smart meter installed in your home, you no longer have to worry about estimated bills.

They're similar to a traditional meter, but the meter readings are sent directly to your energy supplier through wireless communication.

With smart meters, you can track exactly how much electricity you're using and always get accurate and up-to-date energy bills.

Note that a few energy suppliers may not offer smart meters. Contact your energy supplier and ask if they offer smart meter installation.

In-Home Display

After a smart meter is installed in their home, homeowners will receive a portable device called an in-home display (IHD).

This device will track your power consumption in kWh or pounds and pence and update at regular intervals to better reflect your consumption.

IHDs can also offer recommendations to help homeowners reduce their consumption and save money on their energy bills.

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    How Do They Work?

    If you're wondering how smart meters work, this section should clarify things. Any smart meter readings and reports of your energy usage will be sent to the Data Communications Company (DCC).

    After recording your energy usage, the DCC will send the information to your energy supplier, such as EDF energy. Your supplier will use this information to provide you with more accurate energy bills.

    Note that not all smart meters can communicate directly with the DCC. Some units will send your energy usage to other smart meters that can directly communicate with them.

    Communication between your smart meter, your IHD and other smart meters is facilitated by a home area network, which has a range of 15 m.

    What Is the Difference Between First and Second-Generation Smart Meters?

    Before installing a smart meter, let’s look at the two main types.

    First-Generation Smart Meter

    First-generation smart meters were introduced in 2013 and connected to a 3G mobile network. Though initially useful, these first-generation smart meters came with a flaw.

    If their user moved to a new energy supplier, the smart meter would stop giving automatic readings and ‘go dumb’.

    This meant the household either had to give your energy supplier manual readings or rely on their estimates for their electricity bills.

    This discouraged homeowners from making the switch. First-generation smart meters were also incompatible with solar installations.

    Second-Generation Smart Meter

    Second-generation smart meters work similarly to their first-generation predecessors but with a few small upgrades for greater efficiency. The introduction of these newer units began in 2018.

    Besides tracking how much gas and electricity you use, these new smart meters retain functionality when moving between energy suppliers instead of becoming dumb.

    This improved communication between suppliers was made possible by implementing a wide area network (WAN).

    The WAN doesn't require Wi-Fi and won't impact your home broadband network.

    First-gen smart meters are being upgraded and moved onto this new network to ensure they have the same functionality as the newer units.

    Smart Meters and Solar Panels: Do They Work Well Together?

    If you've ever wondered whether smart meters and solar panels work together, the answer is yes! Second-generation smart meters work well with solar panels .

    Older smart meters could not properly measure exported electricity from efficient solar panel systems, but second-generation units no longer have this problem.

    This issue stopped homeowners with a solar panel system from having a smart meter fitted to their homes.

    Homeowners used to need a separate export meter to track the extra energy they exported to the National Grid. Newer smart meters can handle this automatically.

    It's also worth noting that a smart meter will help homeowners see how much electricity their solar PV system uses and how much they take from the National Grid.

    Is It Worth Having a Smart Meter Installed?

    Installing a smart meter is worth it because it provides accurate real-time readings and gives you greater control over your energy consumption.

    You'll also be glad to know that smart meter installation is free and is covered by your energy providers as part of the national rollout.

    Some homeowners may be worried about their smart meter leaving them vulnerable to cyberattacks and power outages, but these worries are unfounded.

    Newer smart meters have increased cybersecurity measures to protect against potential vulnerabilities and issues.

    Are They Mandatory?

    You may wonder, Are smart meters mandatory? Fortunately, they aren't. Homeowners don't need to have a smart meter fitted to their homes.

    It's important to note that homeowners don't need to have a smart meter installed, but it is convenient and will provide accurate readings to help them track their energy usage.

    Smart meters can also give homeowners access to energy tariffs like the SEG, which will be explained below.

    How Does the Government Utilise Smart Meters?

    Solar panels and other renewable installations sometimes produce more energy than the homeowner needs, which results in unused energy.

    Homeowners with a very efficient solar panel system can export unused energy to the National Grid and get paid for their efforts.

    Put simply, the government will pay residents for exporting energy from their solar PV system back to the National Grid.

    To facilitate the UK's switch to renewable energy, two schemes have been launched: the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) and SEG.

    Feed-in Tariff

    The FIT was launched in 2010 and aimed at homeowners and business owners. All energy suppliers enrolled in the scheme must pay the applicants for all excess power produced.

    • Generation Tariff - Homeowners receive quarterly payments from their energy suppliers for every unit of electricity they generate.
    • Export Tariff - Homeowners are paid per unit of power exported back to the National Grid.

    The FIT stopped accepting new applicants in 2019, but anyone currently enrolled in the scheme can continue to receive payments despite the scheme's closure.

    Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)

    The SEG is a government scheme that benefits solar panel owners who create excess energy.

    It was launched in 2020 to replace the earlier FIT scheme.

    Large energy suppliers or any power provider with 150,000 or more domestic customers must pay 6-9p per kWh of exported energy to registered solar power producers.

    What if I Have a Solar Battery?

    Suppose you've kept your power consumption low, and your solar panels are efficient. You might invest in solar storage or a solar battery to keep your extra power.

    You may still be eligible for the SEG but remember to check with your energy supplier first.


    Smart meters and solar panels are compatible and useful for anyone with a solar panel system.

    These useful devices are the result of a collaboration between energy companies and the British government with the aim of reducing the country's carbon footprint.

    You can keep your energy bills low and get paid thanks to solar panels and smart meters!

    Did you know that Solar Panel Installation can match you with 3 local installers who will provide you with a free quote? Fill out our form today to get in touch with installers.

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    Mark McShane
    Content Writer
    Mark McShane is a seasoned professional in the solar industry and the owner of Skills Training Group, a leading provider of solar training and education. With years of experience in the field, Mark has developed a deep understanding of the latest trends, technologies and best practices in the industry. His expertise and passion for solar energy have helped countless professionals develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the fast-growing field of solar energy. Whether you’re an aspiring solar professional or an experienced industry veteran, Mark is an excellent resource for anyone looking to enhance their skills and knowledge of the solar industry.
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