Behind the meter complaints and case studies

Service provider

Complaints opened involving behind the meter products

Electricity > network > authorised       18
Electricity > not allocated 20
Electricity > retail > authorised 433
Electricity > retail > exempt               12
Total 473

Table 9 - Top core issues for closed complaints involving behind the meter technologies, July to September 2021

EWON core complaint issue (closed cases)       Total
Billing > high > disputed 149
Billing > tariff > feed-in 49
Digital meter exchange > delay 41
General > energy / water* 23
Billing > contract terms > variation in price / terms 11
Billing > estimation > meter access / not read 10
Billing > tariff > rate 9
Transfer > rejected 8
Digital meter exchange > fault > solar connection 8
Supply >  variation 7

 * Complaints are often about solar installation companies which are outside EWON's jurisdiction.

Retail energy contracts designed for customers with behind the meter products are becoming increasingly complex 

The sale of behind the meter products like rooftop solar systems and batteries are regulated primarily as stand-alone consumer products, yet the retail energy market is responsible for delivering a significant part of the ongoing financial benefits to customers.  

NSW electricity customers can now easily access energy offers designed to provide customers with credits for the energy generated by their solar system or battery, which is then exported to the grid. Retailers now also commonly sell rooftop solar systems, inverters, and storage batteries directly to their customers. This means retailers are entering into agreements with customers that run alongside their traditional contract for the supply of electricity. These new agreements might include financing, a solar power purchase agreement, or allow customers to participate in virtual power plants. 

Retailers are also increasingly providing integrated energy services to customers which help to optimise the financial benefit the customer receives from the behind the meter technologies they own. Some common examples of these services are: 

  • online data services which give the customer access to more information about their energy usage and generation 
  • demand response products, such as software that allows the customer to export the energy from their storage batteries at times of peak demand for additional financial benefit.  

Through these emerging services, retailers are playing a critical role in helping energy customers access the benefits of behind the meter and renewable energy products. At the same time, these services are making energy contracts more complex, and it can be difficult for some customers to understand the terms and conditions they are accepting. For customers that are purchasing rooftop systems and batteries directly from a retailer, the agreements can also effectively lock the customer into a long-term agreement for the supply of energy. The following case studies illustrate the issues customers face. 

Generation capacity of rooftop solar system limits customer’s eligibility for solar feed-in tariffs 

The customer owned two rooftop solar systems with a combined generation capacity of 28 kVA. He opened an account with the retailer in 2019 and advised it of the generation capacity of his rooftop system at the time he was offered the energy plan.  

The customer complained to EWON because his contract had now rolled over and he had been notified by his retailer that the solar plan was being cancelled due to the generation capacity of his system. The customer told EWON that terms and conditions of the original offer did not limit eligibility for a solar feed-in tariff to households with systems with a capacity of 10 kVA or less. 

EWON contacted the retailer to discuss the customer’s complaint, to obtain further information about the retailer’s eligibility criteria for solar feed-in tariffs, and to request copies of the voice recorded agreement between the retailer and the customer. EWON noted that the retailer had communicated to the customer that the contract was for a 24-month period. The information provided by the retailer also indicated that the customer was provided with information about the eligibility criteria for receiving a feed-in tariff, but he was also told that his system was eligible.  

The retailer initially offered to pay the customer $2,033 to make up for the benefits the customer would lose due to the cancellation of the contract, and to address the poor customer service he had experienced. The customer requested a payment of $2,500 as compensation for the loss of benefits he would have received for the duration of the contract. The retailer agreed to the customer’s request and the complaint was resolved. EWON referred the customer to to compare alternative energy offers, including feed-in tariffs. 

An energy contract extended beyond billing the customer for their energy usage and involved the control of the electricity exported from his storage battery 

A customer accepted an energy offer from a company that operates as a white label brand under the authorisation of another energy retailer. The energy offer included the installation of a storage battery through another solar installation company. The customer contacted EWON after he became aware that the company providing his retail energy services was using software to trade the energy stored up in his battery. The customer considered that the company’s focus on trading the energy in his battery resulted in higher bills for his electricity usage. The customer had contacted the energy company and advised it that he did not consent to the use of his battery. The customer advised EWON that the energy company told him that the misunderstanding was due to his error. 

We referred the matter to the authorised retailer, for resolution at a higher level with the customer’s acceptance knowing he could return to us if he was unhappy with the outcome. The authorised retailer advised EWON that it had contacted the customer and discussed the complaint. The retailer clarified that the customer had complained that the software controlling the battery continued to be used after the agreement had been cancelled. The retailer confirmed that the control of the customer’s battery had now ceased, and it had analysed the customer’s data and assessed that the customer had not been disadvantaged by the error. The retailer advised EWON that the matter had been resolved directly with the customer to his satisfaction.