UK PV owners too focused on exporting instead of consuming solar-generated power

Brits with solar PV installs are too focused on the financial benefits of their installations, wrongly believing that exporting energy provides maximum benefit, according to academic research by a UK smart grid project.

The study, led by the University of Durham as part of the Customer-Led Network Revolution (CLNR), discovered that PV owners are undervaluing the financial benefits of consuming energy generated onsite. The study found that the adoption of solar is being driven by new conventions which are focused on the financial motivations given by the feed-in tariff.

“Onsite use of power isn’t widely recognised as a way to maximise financial benefits for PV owners, even though the cost of electricity proves that it’s economically sensible for them to use as much as possible so they don’t have to buy electricity from a supplier,” said Dr Liz Sidebotham of Northern Powergrid, one of the company’s behind the CLNR.

The study discovered that PV owners are overvaluing the feed-in tariff revenue generated by exporting excess energy back to the grid instead of using energy generated to negate the purchase of electricity from the grid.

Maximising the amount of solar-generated consumption by PV owners doesn’t only benefit system owners either, as Sidebotham explained: “We have seen that by equipping PV owners with smart meters and in-home energy monitors they were able to better understand and manage their own energy use and generation. It gives PV owners the knowledge to help them cut their energy bills further and become even more energy self-sufficient, lessening the flow of PV-generated energy back onto the networks.

"This could be hugely beneficial to the UK electricity industry, allowing more PV to be installed without the need for investment in network infrastructure, helping the UK on its way to achieving its decarbonisation targets in a more cost-effective way.”

The study also discovered that owners of solar PV tend to better understand their energy consumption which leads to changing consumption habits. Dr Sidebotham added: “Our research has shown that solar PV owners tend to be the most aware and informed when it comes to energy usage. This leads to more active ways of relating to energy, whereby individuals engage in the calculation of their own consumption and generation, as well as in monitoring and managing their use to a greater extent than in other households.”