Grid Connection of your solar system: should you organise it yourself?

Short Answer: no

If you are buying a solar system for your home, I would strongly recommend using a firm that will organise the new meter, grid connection (including new meter calibration) for you.

Trust me: you really don’t want to try and deal with the electricity companies’ bureaucracy yourselves, leave it to the solar supplier who has done it a thousand times before.

Here’s a story that Gary emailed me yesterday. Basically, even though he paid for the solar supplier to organise the install for him, he ended up organising the final part himself! The moral of the story is: Get in writing a date by which you will be connected to the grid with a fully functioning import export meter correctly configured for billing.

“My wife was a contracts manager for a commonwealth department managing a large staff base with a 26 million annual budget. I have been a businessman, purchasing manager and finally a business analyst with the department of defence.

We foolishly thought we were ideally setup from a competency point of view to analyse the whole solar market.

We needed all this background experience and more, including professional experiences to achieve a successful outcome with solar home generation.

Some additional comments to your questionnaire:

We were very happy with Solar Charge the company that installed our system.

They were not the cheapest, but we believe they were the best as regards quality of components, customer service and qualified careful installing
tradesmen.

But in many ways the acquisition process, selection of a competent cost effective solar company is the easiest part of the whole exercise.

The most difficult parts are-

When we bundled initially with a energy retailer provider, that was a pleasant exercise, 17.9 cents net per KW hour for electricity and a similar outcome for our gas needs.

But as soon as we went to solar all previously contractually agreed bets were off and our electricity charge from the grid from [all retailers seem to be a similar cost] our charge jumps to 29.9  per KW hour from 7 am until 11 pm weekdays. our off peak charge is only 11 cents per KW hour 11 pm until 7 am in the morning.

[note from Finn: this doesn’t have to be the case see here to find a retailer that won’t increase your tariff for getting solar]

So from 17.9 cents per KW hour after discounts jumping to 28 after discounts.

but in someway it gets even harder-

To get our so called smart meter recalibrated to recognise and meter our solar generation was a nightmare from an admin point of view.

I initially was told by our retailer provider that it would take 26 working days to process our paperwork through to our distributor who is responsible for reconfiguring our smart meter.

Solar Charge told us it would cost $136 dollars which they included in their quote.

Our retailer provider told us it would cost $196 and if we wanted to speed the connect up we could pay an additional $50 to get the truck to visit our suburb out of turn so to speak.

When I got rather firm [not abusive at any stage] with the retailer with finally a senior customer service person she said her company’s performance to date was poor and she would husband our paperwork [which Solar Charge had submitted in a timely manner] as quickly as was reasonable.

Which was the case exactly in fact.

The retailer got our paperwork to the distributor in 3 working days, very reasonable.

The large distributor did the reconfiguring in 3 working days [also reasonable] from their workshops and here is the good news, at no cost.

Because these smart meters in my suburb can be reconfigured from their workshops via a computer download.

No visiting truck is required we were told.

[We need to see this in actual reality if true in future bills, I have made a record of conversation regarding who I have spoken to and the undertakings given to me].

Solar Charge has without any hesitation agreed to refund our $136 but after a few weeks period that allows for any unexpected bill arrival from the distributor [they don’t totally believe this is ttrue yet].

*Our solar installation was finalised on the 5 November and our so called smart meter was recalibrated on the 23 November.

All that is reasonable, but it would certainly not have happened without an enormous persistent personal involvement from ourselves.

Speaking to a neighbour living on her own, it took her 9 months [for some months she did not entirely understand the whole process] to get her system connected to the grid from a metering  of her solar power point of view.”

Avoid this experience by getting in writing the absolute latest date at which you will have your system connected to the grid and properly metered.

About Finn Peacock

I'm a Chartered Electrical Engineer, Solar and Energy Efficiency nut, dad, and founder of SolarQuotes.com.au. My last "real job" was working for the CSIRO in their renewable energy division.

Comments

  1. Ralph Schaefer says

    Hi – I require a Smart Meter to be installed.
    I have currently a PV 1.5Kw system, for which I require a direct supply for my home electricity usage.
    Could you please assist me in obtaining a quotation, or better still, 3 quotes.
    The job needs to be done.
    Please assist m,e.
    Thank you
    Ralph

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hello Ralph. We can help you get three quotes for solar systems. Just go to the front page of the site:

      https://www.solarquotes.com.au/

      But if you need a smart meter, the good news is you may not need to pay for one. Your electricity retailer may be willing to install a smart meter for free. So contact your retailer, see if they’ll install one for you, and if they’re not interested you can try checking other retailers to see if they will help.

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