Eastern pays households with solar panels an ‘equal’ rate for electricity

The UK's fourth largest electricity generator is looking for domestic customers who have or plan to install solar panels. The company is offering to pay these customers the same rate for the energy they export to the grid as they are charged when they buy-in electricity.

“By introducing this pilot programme we’re hoping more people will consider installing solar panels,” a spokesperson at TXU Europe, Eastern’s owner, told edie. Until now, domestic customers who generate solar energy and export some of it to the grid have been paid two thirds less for the energy they export than the cost of buying-in electricity from the grid (see related story).

“The idea came out of discussions we’ve had with Greenpeace,” says TXU’s spokesperson.

The first customer to benefit from the ‘equal playing field’ offered by Eastern is the Homerton Grove Adventure Playground in East London. “We started generating our own solar electricity at the playground because we wanted to set a shining example of the energy that future generations will rely on,” said the playground’s manager Simon Rix. “Now, thanks to Eastern and Greenpeace, hundreds of children will also benefit from the money our solar panels make us.”

The second beneficiary of the scheme is expected to be three Peabody Trust terraced homes in Silvertown in London’s Docklands. These homes represent the first application of solar power installed in social housing in the country. Greenpeace estimates that each of the three households should save more than £60 a year if Eastern buys their solar power.

Greenpeace first approached London Electricity about improving the payment the Silvertown households receive for the energy they export to the grid. “When we didn’t get a satisfactory response from London Electricity, we approached Eastern,” Ian Taylor, Greenpeace UK’s renewable energy campaigner, told edie. “This is one of the few instances where renewable energy has been helped by liberalisation of the electricity market,” says Taylor, referring to the change in the rules which allows customers to switch electricity companies.

Eastern wants to hear from more domestic customers who want to sell their solar power to the grid (see related story). The pilot scheme is open to 1,000 domestic customers located anywhere in the UK. “We will set up the metering so that people get their fair dues,” says the TXU spokesperson.

Eastern will provide a meter that calculates not only how much energy customers buy-in from the grid but also how much they export, and the company guarantees that the unit cost of buying-in will match the unit payment for energy exported for the next five years.

Greenpeace can provide assistance to householders who want to install solar panels but who need information regarding suppliers and installers. “The thing with photovoltiacs in this country is that, contrary to popular belief, they do work here,” says Taylor.

To receive more information on the Eastern Energy/ Greenpeace solar energy deal ring 0845 604 8888.

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