Pulling Together


... and FiTted up

Over the last six months a saga of taking over a solar installation has slowly played out.

It has not been an easy journey. When I bought my house I was delighted to see it was already equipped with solar panels. That meant I would not need to pay to install them and I would be entitled to free hot water and electricity during the day. In winter the panels do little as there is not much daylight and what there is is often dull and insufficient to produce significant amounts of power. However, in the summer long days with often strong sunshine produce plenty of power. Of course, it is likely the power is produced when the weather is warmest and least needed for heating and lighting, but it still proves worthwhile because surplus power can be a source of income as it goes out to neighbouring properties where people pay their energy companies for it. In return I receive payments for supplying that power to the system. At least, that is how it’s supposed to work.

However, nowhere in the paperwork relating to the purchase of the house could I find any reference to the company paying the Feed-in-Tariff on my panels, so I asked my electricity supplier if it were them. They told me it was not but checked the register for me, only to report there appeared to be no entry for an installation at my address. I thanked them but was in the process of moving to a new supplier, so I asked them to help. They also drew a blank. I contacted my solicitor, who had no idea and eventually suggested I contact the estate agent. I had little confidence they would help, firstly because they worked for the vendor rather than me and secondly because the sale had been completed and they had been paid off, but to their credit they did. They put me in direct contact with their former customers who helpfully supplied a copy of the paperwork they’d signed after the panels were installed.

This showed me the company was Good Energy, so I contacted them, only to be told there was no FiT for the property because the paperwork of which I had a signed copy had never been received. After a short discussion it was agreed I could not benefit from the now closed Feed-in-Tariff scheme and would have to have a smart meter installed so I could apply for the current Smart Energy Guarantee scheme instead.

Now I was faced with the almost impossible customer service of British Gas. Several phone calls to people with badly-adjusted headsets who would cut me off if I asked them to adjust them or just for the fun of it in mid-sentence sometimes, leading to many dealings with their Complaints Department which seems to be the only one to take customer contact seriously, ensued. Eventually an appointment for an installation was agreed, and broken. Further appointments were made with great difficulty because of the continuing communications difficulties, and cancelled the day before. Eventually someone did come and fit the meter, but by now it was 10th October, nearly three months after I had moved in.

I then tried to apply for the SEG and received no response. I chased, and chased, but it eventually emerged they could not receive my e-mails, which was the preferred method of submission. I put the documents in the post and eventually they arrived, but the photograph of the meter did not survive their in-house scanning process as they do not actually have an internal post to distribute documents and rely on scans which in the case of photographs are insufficiently clear to be legible when reaching their final destination. Of course, this is considered the customer’s problem not the company’s, even thought the documents were legible in the post room before scanning. In modern Britain it is always the customer’s fault.

Eventually, on 15th December, I received the news I could not enroll in SEG because there is a FiT on the property! I would have to apply to Ofgem to find out who the licensee is, but they gave me an outdated e-mail address which is no longer in use. It turned out Ofgem use the same e-mail provider as British Gas, so I had to sort out the same mail issues before I could succeed in contacting them, but once that was done I finally found out on 24th January that the company I needed to contact was... Good Energy. I wasted no time in putting in a complaint especially as, having been told in August I was ineligible for FiT, I had disposed of the scrap of paper recording my move-in reading since that was no longer meaningful. Now I need that reading which is impossible to obtain over six months later. We shall see where that leads. This is the second example in one week of the battle ordinary people must go through in order to obtain basic entitlements and basic service from systems no longer designed to serve our interests. This really must change. I have a third example coming up.

About the Author

K J Petrie has a Full Technological Certificate in Radio, TV and Electronics, an HNC in Digital Electronics and a BA(Hons) in Theological Studies.

His interests include Christian and societal unity, Diverse Diversity, and freedoms from want, from fear, of speech, and of association. He is a member of the Social Democratic Party.

The views expressed here are entirely personal and unconnected with any body to which he belongs.

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