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Smart or not-so Smart Meter?

By Charles Curley
HelioPower Solar Energy Consultant
 
Recently I was able to have HelioPower install solar on my home in Escondido, CA. It was a great opportunity for me to take advantage of the SunRun Power Purchase agreement offered by HelioPower for residential

HelioPower solar installation at Curley Residence in Escondido, CA

HelioPower solar installation at Curley Residence in Escondido, CA

customers in California. 
 
As a solar energy consultant, I had heard from one of my customers that his local utility’s smart meter did not have the capability of crediting him for the excess electricity generated by his solar power system.  Armed with the data from his solar power system monitoring program, this customer was able to go back to his gas and electric company and successfully garner a credit for his electricity overproduction.
 
Soon after the installation of my solar power system was complete, the moment arrived to “flip the switch.” Even though my local utility had not changed the meter on my home system back to a gear driven model, I was too excited to wait and activated the system. 
 
Immediately I could tell my solar power system was producing more electricity than my household needed and thus was sending electricity back to the power company.  Watching the meter, it became apparent that not only was I not being credited for my solar generated electricity, but the number of kilowatt hours charged on the digital meter was actually increasing.

SunPower inverter at Curley Residence

SunPower inverter at Curley Residence

Calling the utility, I was told that not only was my solar power system giving them free green electricity, but I was being charged for it as well.  The explanation was the “not-so-smart” meter could not discern the direction of the electrical current, so it charged for everything going through it.  It was charging me for current going in and out of my home!
 
In the end, it was a lesson well learned.  As a solar energy consultant, I would rather go through this experience to help my customers avoid a similar situation. The moral of the story is make sure your meter is changed back to a manual meter before you fire up your new solar power system. 
 
A final note:  Smart meters are projected to have upgraded software by the end of the year to add the capability of crediting customers for electrical overproduction.
 
For more information contact Charles Curley at [email protected]