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Energy explained

How to help suppliers support small-scale generators

We want to pay people with solar panels for the energy they export to the grid. Here’s how government can help us do that.

When you install solar panels on your home, it’s likely that you’ll end up producing more energy than you can use. Rather than let that go to waste, this energy gets automatically exported on to the national grid. In the past, you’d get paid for this through the government's ‘Feed-in Tariff’. Last year, the government announced they were going to close the scheme. As we wrote on our blog, we didn’t want it to go. But the government recently announced new plans. We think they could be better and here’s why.

The government want to introduce new laws which would mean energy suppliers like Bulb would have to offer their own ‘export tariff’ to customers. The government will decide what this tariff should look like. For example, they might decide people should be paid a fixed flat rate for the energy they export to the grid. They’ve called this new tariff the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). Energy suppliers like Bulb would have to offer the SEG to its customers.

Like the government, we want people with solar panels to be paid for any energy they export to the grid. As we’ve said before, anything less is ‘daylight robbery’. And we’re keen to offer our own ‘export tariff’ to our members (we’re working on that right now). But we don’t think it’s right that government should decide what that tariff looks like. They don’t do this for normal energy tariffs. And there’ll be much more room for innovation if suppliers can decide those things for themselves.

We’re also going to ask the government to help speed up the registration process for suppliers. At the moment, signing up your solar panels with a supplier is a time-consuming, manual process. For example, you need to scan and upload proof of identity and a copy of the safety certificate given to you when your solar panels were installed. Our team have to manually check every document with the relevant government database. It’s a bit of a bore for everyone. If government want suppliers like Bulb to provide the SEG, we need to work together to use technology to make this better. These checks could and should be automated. At the end of the day, if we can register your solar panels quicker, we’ll be able to pass that saving on to you.

The government asked us to stay part of the conversation and we’ll write to BEIS (the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) again to let them know what we think. In the meantime, we’ll continue our work to overcome the obstacles which prevent us from offering our own ‘export tariff’ to members. We want to champion this community of people who are so committed to renewable energy. This work has already begun and we'll keep you up to date.

Bulb chose to become a voluntary FIT licensee in April 2018. Our members can register for the Feed-in Tariff through their Bulb Account.

And as ever, we’d love to know your thoughts on this topic. How do you think we can best support small-scale renewable generators?