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Are solar homes getting paid properly for their solar exports?

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TasNetworks has revealed that up to 10,000 of its customers may have been underpaid for the rooftop solar power they had exported to the grid, after detecting a metering problem that solar groups say is not isolated to the state’s government-owned network operator.

TasNetworks – a company created by the Tasmanian government to manage the electricity transmission and distribution networks from 1 July 2014 – said on Monday it had identified a solar meter programming issue where a specific type of meter was incorrectly displaying the amount of energy customers were exporting back into the network.

The company has promised to repay affected customers, and while an online statement said the network was unable to provide an estimate of reimbursements, TasNetworks spokesman Mike Paine said testing had revealed estimates of around $240 a customer.

“There will be no impact on pricing as a result of this and we will incur all the costs internally as a business,” Paine said.

But the Tasmanian Renewable Energy Alliance, which has congratulated TasNetworks proactive approach to the  problem, says it is not the only metering problem affecting rooftop solar owners.

It said that the Aurora billing system – used up until July 2014, before Transend and Aurora Energy were merged into a single entity –had provided solar owners with incorrect information about their average electricity use, a problem that had not been fixed despite repeated requests.

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“Over a year and half ago, we identified that solar owners who purchased after 30 August 2013 were not getting the full benefit of their solar generation if they were using power on a hot water tariff at the same time,” TREA said in a statement on Monday.

“This additional problem has still not been fixed. TasNetworks estimate that a software solution to this will not be available until August or September this year. This is over two years since the government instructed Aurora to fix this ‘as soon as practical’.”

The Alliance also warned that, following TasNetworks revelation, network operators would need to provide a lot more information to convince solar owners they were being billed and treated fairly, or else risk solar owners quitting the grid entirely.

“All customers need to be able to trust their electricity bill,” said TREA executive officer Jack Gilding. “Without this trust, customers will increasingly be asking whether they are better off not relying on the grid at all.”  

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