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We’ll buy the energy you export

An image of a house with solar panels on the roof

We’re excited to announce the launch of Bulb export payments. Bulb Labs are looking for 50 members who generate their own electricity and are interested in signing up. We’ll pay them for any electricity they generate and export to the grid.

Update: the Export Trial has now closed. On 1 January 2020 we launched Export Payments, which are compliant with Ofgem's Smart Export Guarantee. Read more and find out if you are eligible to sign up.

Launching an export payments alpha is the first step on the road to paying all our members who generate green electricity at home for energy they export to the grid. In the past, this energy was paid for through the government’s ‘Feed-in Tariff’ (FIT). Since the government announced the scheme was ending on 31st March 2019, we’ve been working behind the scenes to launch an export tariff of our own. There are some obstacles in our way. But we’re ready to launch this alpha and begin learning what our members want and need from this new Bulb service.

Replacing the Feed-in Tariff

In December 2018, the government announced it would be closing FIT. Through FIT, government paid people for the energy they generated at home and exported to the grid, typically from solar panels. From April onwards, anyone installing new small-scale renewable installations will not be eligible for these payments. They’ll be exporting their energy to the grid for free.

We wrote about this at the time, saying that while we supported the government’s intention for suppliers to offer similar schemes, we thought the closure came too soon. The scheme was successful: there are now 800,000 people in the UK who generate their own green electricity. And with only three months notice, the industry wasn’t ready to come up with alternatives.

That’s why we’ve been working since then to launch an export tariff of our own. We want to pay our members for green electricity they generate and export to the grid.

Overcoming the obstacles

It’s a little complicated, but right now, tracking the electricity a member exports and then paying them for it relies on a flow of information from their smart meter to their energy supplier. Because the FIT scheme closed sooner than anticipated, there hasn’t been enough time to coordinate this information flow across multiple organisations.

As an individual supplier, we’re working on setting up the industry links we need as fast as possible. But we’re not quite there yet. We don’t think this needs to get in the way of getting going. We want to support this emerging market of small scale, ‘individual’ generators and think we can learn by launching quickly.

Launching quickly so we can learn

While we’re working on setting up the information links with our partners, we want to find out what our members need from an export tariff like this. So we’re launching an alpha trial for export payments: to learn as much as possible about what our members who generate electricity want and expect from us. Like our tariff, we want our offer to be simple.

Over the next few months we’ll be working with members who’ve joined our alpha to gain as much insight as possible before launching to more people.

How the alpha works (and what on earth is an alpha?)

We’re inviting 50 members to sign up for export payments. Once they've signed up, they’ll start receiving payments for the energy they export to the grid.

Right now, the service to offer export payments is in the ‘alpha phase’. That means we’re running a small trial with a limited number of members to help us work out all the kinks. It won't be perfect to start with but it’s ready to use and we’ll improve it quickly. We’ll need help and feedback from our members to help us make it better. Launching quickly allows us to get on and understand what our members need from an export tariff. This means that we’ll be ready to scale up, and offer this service to as many people as possible when the technical work with our industry partners is complete.

We’re still working with government

Since government announced the end to the Feed-in Tariff, they’ve opened a consultation on their proposal for a new export tariff which would be run by energy suppliers. We’ve already shared our thoughts on this with government (and on our blog) and we’ll continue to engage on the plans as they develop.

Got questions? Stop by our Help Centre.

And as ever, we’d love to know your thoughts on this topic. What do you think a service like this should look like? Join the discussion in the Bulb Community.