Contracts for behind the meter products involving solar and batteries can be complicated, particularly if the benefit to the customer is linked to the wholesale price of electricity. Customer confusion is not helped by conflicting advice from retailers as to the conditions of their contract.

Solar battery installation offers minimal benefit

A customer with solar panels installed for over fifteen years spent $10,000 to have a solar battery installed in April 2020. His electricity bills did not reduce much after he installed the battery, so he raised concerns with his retailer that the bills might be incorrect. His retailer told him it would look into the issue, but customer service representatives were inconsistent with contact and would often not return his calls.

EWON’s review found that under the customer’s contract with the retailer, the battery would provide the most financial benefit during periods of high demand. We explained that excess electricity generated from the solar panels not used in the home would fill the battery. When the battery was full, the remaining generated electricity was fed into the grid. The customer received a guaranteed feed-in tariff of 6 cents per kWh for energy fed back into the grid regardless of the market demand, even where the spot price dropped below the minimum. In periods of high demand when the spot price rose above the minimum, the customer would be eligible for additional credits for the energy fed back into the grid. The reason the customer had not yet received additional benefits was that the market conditions defined by the contract had not yet been met since the battery was installed. 

The retailer provided information about where the customer could monitor the spot price online. The customer was satisfied with this explanation as resolution of the complaint.

Customer received conflicting information about solar plan

A customer installed a 10kW solar unit with 33 solar panels and an 8.2 kW inverter at the end of 2020. He signed up for a 12-month solar plan with his preferred retailer which included a feed-in tariff of 21 cents per kWh. After several months, he received a letter from his retailer advising that he was not eligible for the solar plan as his system was over 10kW, and his feed-in tariff would be reduced to 7 cents per kWh. He contacted his retailer to query this but was given confusing and conflicting information about his eligibility for the plan. At one stage the retailer said he could remain on the plan if he provided proof his system was not over 10kW.

EWON reviewed the terms and conditions of the solar plan and confirmed that customers with solar systems over 10kW were not eligible for the plan. The retailer acknowledged that it had provided conflicting information to the customer about his eligibility and whether he needed to provide proof of the solar system size. The retailer said that the customer’s solar system was likely larger than 10kW but exempted the customer from needing to demonstrate the solar system size. To resolve the complaint, it confirmed he could remain on the plan for the agreed 12-month period and also offered a goodwill credit of $100 for the conflicting information. The customer accepted this outcome.