The Hassle of Getting Paid for Solar Export

We bought a solar panel installation and now generate more electricity than we use... sometimes. In principle, we can sell that electricity back to an energy company. In practice there are two caveats. The first is well known: the rate they pay us is only a small fraction of the price they charge us for electricity. The second problem I did not appreciate in advance: the hassle of applying for and setting up the payment scheme.

I applied to Scottish Power. They offer 12 p/kWh. This was the highest rate available for the general public, outside of the special rates that they and a few others offer to their own energy-buying customers. (I don't want to buy from them.)

The initial application process involved an online form of something like sixteen steps, among which I had to provide a photo of the meter reading, intricate details of registration numbers and meter numbers, a wiring diagram which I had to request from the installer, a certificate, a DNO registration number, and so on. Providing a meter number might seem obvious, but not just one, but multiple numbers, and our installer issued a certificate with the wrong MPAN number on it and that took another week to sort out. I didn't have a photo of the meter reading from the installation date (showing zero), and I expended some effort trying not to forfeit the intervening generation of two sunny months. I had a written record of it, but there was no place in the application form to write this, so I overlaid a note about this on the photo before uploading it. Will that be read and accepted? All I can do is submit the registration and wait.

Due to the various complications of missing and incorrect data, I had to attempt this process several times over the course of several months. In one instance it took a month from submission until being told “we are unable to complete this because...”. Eventually I had all the pieces in place and the application was accepted.

About four months after starting, the application was approved in principle. That's when the next step began. I had to create a Supplier Account with what appears to be their wholesaler system at ''. It's a 1980's style computer system, with screens full of business accounting details, accompanied by a fourteen-page handbook full of screen shots showing where to click on each screen and which of my multiple “customer numbers” and “supplier codes” and PINs and passwords to enter where. Be sure to click on the “Add” button before the “OK” button or you will be returned to the previous step. “Please be sure to read this handbook in full.” Thanks; I'd love to read your handbook but you sent it in Microsoft's proprietary doc format and I'm not a Microsoft customer and can't read their files. May I have it in a standard PDF format? Three days later, “No problem, here's a PDF.” I proceeded through the instructions and apparently that means my bank payment details are set up. Will it work?

Shortly after that, “We're doing a data cleanse. Please log in and reconfirm your details.” That should be easy enough, if I can fill in the right fields for my “customer number” or is it “user code”, and my “supplier number” or is it “vendor code”, in the login form. Try once or twice. I'm in. OK, one more hoop jumped through.

Now we come to today. The reason I am reviewing this procedure today, and writing this article about it, is because I need to chase it up again, check whether and why payments are not being received. I want to check on the system, to see if my registration all seems complete and in order, and see what I can discover about the status of payments.

I fire up my password manager and search for the notes I kept of the different login fields. I'm in. “You must change your password.” Oh, OK, if I must. Get old password from my password manager, generate a new password in password manager, enter that, click “Update”, see “Your new password doesn't comply with all our password rules (and here are the 9 rules).” That's a bit annoying; my old one was already plenty long and random and strong. OK, generate a new one. “Now enter your OLD password again.” Again? Gah. OK, my password manager saves old passwords, doesn't it? No? My previous one did. Gah. Have to go to “Forgotten Password” then. It sends me a PIN via email, and that allows me to change password again. Seems to work. Back to the login screen. “Incorrect password, contact Supplier Support Service or try again after 24 hours.” Gah!


Months later, it's been a year now in total, and a hassle, and still no payment has yet been received. By my rough estimate the entire value of export payments might be around £70 a year. Not nothing, but not of great significance in the face of something like two thousand pounds of total energy bills. When it does come through, I will consider at least the first year's payment as merely compensation for the value of my time already spent in this tedious process. If I had to work those hours for that money, I would rather it had been some other more productive kind of work.

Going back and re-reading the old emails, I spot something I dimly recall reading at the time. It says,

“Your first payment is due 6 months after the opening meter reading you provided on your application. When your due date arrives, please visit the following link: <...> to enter your EXPORT reading.

So does this mean it is my job to remember, and enter the reading from my “smart meter” — manually — every 6 months? I had assumed all along that, with a smart meter and an electronic accounting system, this would be done automatically.

This form wants my Meter Serial Number and Customer Reference Number. What's my Meter Serial Number? Though I consider myself technically adept this took me a while. There are two meters involved, the one installed with the solar system which, when I think about it, must be the “generation meter”, which isn't what they want to know; and the original import/export meter. There are about 12 numbers printed on the latter. For future reference, the serial number is the one under the most prominent bar code, but is not labelled as such. And what's my Customer Reference Number? My “customer” or “user” number or code from the Iberdrola system? A Scottish Power customer account number, which I don't have? No, neither. The email say it actually wants the Export MPAN there, which is not apparent from the on-screen messages.


Finally, I get to enter a meter reading, which I can find through multiple button presses on either the meter itself or the in-home display. I cross-check both, because there are lots of different readings available on the meter. OK, submit. “Your Invoice/Payment will be with you in due course. If you have any query’s (sic) please email us.”

We'll see. In due course.

Would I recommend this process to friends? No.

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