Can I switch my supplier if I have solar panels?

Solar panels are becoming a common sight on household properties around the UK. They come with the promise of cheaper energy and sometimes, even the chance to sell excess energy back to the national grid. With improvements in technology, they have started to become much more cost effective than they once were and interest in installation is growing rapidly.

Recent Government initiatives have been making sure that new build houses are as energy efficient as possible. One of the main ways this is being achieved is through the installation of solar panels. This is why you will have undoubtedly noticed a relatively large number of solar panels around newly built estates. This has had the knock-on effect of reducing the price of solar panels and is one of the main reasons why older buildings are now having them retrofitted.

Alongside initial cost and uncertainty about how long it takes for the solar panels to ‘pay for themselves’, a few other niggles exist. Some potential customers are put off by not knowing how the relationship with energy providers works once you have solar panels installed. As with anything new, change can be scary and off-putting. A question that has been asked many times is, “can i switch my supplier if I have solar panels?”. So…

Is switching just as easy if I have solar panels?

The short answer…

The short answer is yes. You are still completely free and able to choose a tariff that suits you. You are also just as free and easy to switch your tariff and energy supplier as often as you like.

The long answer…

The long answer is yes, but there are a few differences. The tariff you have will charge you per KW/h for the electricity that you use in your home, as normal. The difference comes in the fact that you are now generating and supplying some of that energy yourself through your solar panels. This means that you do not need as much energy as you did from power stations and the national grid. First off, this is great news for your bills. Any energy that you produce yourself is a saving on your energy bill. You will not need as much power from the national grid to power your home. The next difference comes in the form of a ‘feed-in’ tariff.

A feed-in tariff uses a separate meter reading that pays you for any energy that you provide to the national grid. This happens when the amount of energy that your solar panels are producing is over and beyond the energy that your household is using at that time. This excess is then fed into the UK network via a feed-in meter. This records how much extra power you have produced.

When you set up your solar panel system, you will need a feed-in tariff licensee. This is an energy provider that you will deal with to buy electricity from you. This does not involve dealing with a specialist company. All of the big six energy providers can offer this service along with many others. In most cases this has been the same company that provides energy to the household. The reason for this falls down to convenience. Solar panels are an established technology but the majority of households haven’t experienced them for themselves. Therefore, most people find it easier to keep a sense of familiarity by using the same company to buy your power that sells it to you.

So, when it comes to the time that you wish to switch energy suppliers, you can do so as you normally would. Compare the market, select the best deal and take advantage of the money you have saved. When this happens your feed-in licensee remains the same. The provider that initially set up your feed-in tariff must continue to pay you as agreed. There will be no penalties for choosing another supplier for the energy you buy and you will not suddenly be left without a buyer for your excess energy. That said, if you also wish to change which company buys your excess, you are also free to do this.

Point of note

The feed-in scheme ended to new applicants in 2019. Anyone already receiving payments will continue to do so for at least the next 20 years, as per Government legislation. The scheme has been succeeded by Smart Export Tariffs which aim to make better use of smart meters. The same rules apply for switching, with everyone encouraged to take advantage of better deals as and when they become available.

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