Business Clinic: Help needed with solar FiT payments muddle

Whether you have a legal, tax, insurance, management or land issue, Farmers Weekly’s Business Clinic experts can help.

Helen Melling, senior energy specialist at Carter Jonas, advises on a complex situation where FiT payments have stopped and an export meter is missing.

Q. I had a 50kVA solar array installed in 2014 with Scottish Power as the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) client.

I have been paid FiT payments regularly until August 2020, when Scottish Power stopped them with no explanation.

Then an email on 9 December 2020 stated that because the array is over 30kVA I should have had an export meter, and should not have been using the estimated export of half my production.

Quoting government FiT directives, Scottish Power says I owe it £700 instead of it paying me £3,350.

The company that installed the array and advised me went into liquidation when the government withdrew FiT support.

I have spoken to our network supplier, Western Power, which has given me an export meter point administration number (MPAN), but says it is not its responsibility to install an export meter.

I am trying to get back to Scottish Power but don’t expect an answer within six months.

I have raised a complaint with Ofgem, which will not act until after eight weeks from the complaint date. I really don’t know what else I can do.

A. Thank you for your question, which has three strands that I’ll deal with separately.

Export meter

Dealing with the export meter issue first, the short answer is that an export meter is necessary, and one should have been installed at the beginning of the project.

This requirement should have been flagged at the outset by your initial adviser, and arguably Scottish Power should also have raised it.

I would need sight of the original and recent paperwork for further review to advise properly on this point.

That said, installation of the export meter needs to be arranged through Scottish Power as a matter of priority.

The cost of its installation would lie with you and I recommend getting this sorted as soon as you can.

See also: Business Clinic – could solar farm cause damage to our land

FiT generation payments

The second point, which relates to the FiT generation payments, is more straightforward.

Since these payments are based on the energy generation, regardless of whether this is used on site or exported, Scottish Power should still be paying.

The first step would always be to raise a complaint with both Scottish Power and Ofgem, which you have already done.

We would also suggest contacting the energy ombudsman to escalate the issue.

Exported power

Finally, to the payments for the exported power (i.e. the power not consumed on site).

For exported power from schemes over 30kVA, you can either opt to receive the guaranteed FiT export tariff (currently either 3.9p/kWh or 5.5p/kWh depending on the timing of the installation) or broker the power and secure a power purchase agreement (PPA) for the sale of the power on the market.

The market price is currently in excess of the FiT export rates, so we are arranging PPAs that are more competitive than the FiT export tariff for our clients.

Whichever of these you have chosen, the lack of an export meter makes this tricky as it is impossible to demonstrate how much power has been exported.

You could build a picture by looking at the energy generated compared to the energy used, but this wouldn’t necessarily entitle you to any back payments.

If you do decide to pursue this, I strongly recommend that you seek expert advice and support.

It is vital to proceed quickly with getting the export meter installed, as you may even find that you are exporting more than 50% of the power generated, entitling you to higher payments than you had been getting.

Getting a favourable PPA in place may help even further.

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