It is not fair!

Yet another puzzling Facebook post from the owner of the Tesla powerwall (translated from Dutch, my bold emphasis):

Thanks to the backwards running meter, we did NOT receive an electricity invoice in the first 7 years (there are no fixed cost at Ecopower). However, this is not fair, since we have still put 70% (see #selfconsumption below) of our solar power on the grid to get it back later from the grid (at night and in the winter).

Says the guy who only one hour ago in his Facebook timeline said he produced as much as he consumes.

That is a rather puzzling claim. He acknowledged that he puts energy on the grid when it is sunny, to get it back later. Since his meter was running backwards and his electricity provider only charges for his consumption (that is correct, Ecopower is the only Belgian provider that does so), this means a zero invoice for his electricity use.

Initially, I was puzzled why he considers this “unfair”. To get this clear we will have to read further (translated from Dutch):

This means that in the summer the freezer of Lidl (a grocery store chain) is running on our (surplus) solar power during the day and that in the winter our house when there is shortage of Sun fed by the nuclear plant Tihange. Even though I have a 100% green electricity contract with Ecopower and I am responsible for my own annual production.

Basically, he has a surplus of solar energy in summer which he puts on the grid (“powering that Lidl freezer”) and in winter he takes this back from the grid. If that is all there is to it, then yes, this would be unfair. Then he would be a producer that is not paid for the energy that is put on the grid. But this doesn’t apply here because he takes the same amount of energy back later.

He also gives conventional and solar energy an equal quality: surplus energy in summer is exchanged with energy from conventional sources in winter. There is something missing in his story. He doesn’t explain where that freezer of Lidl gets its power from when the sun goes down and in winter when his panels don’t produce enough to satisfy his own consumption…

Sure, he is responsible for his own production, on average, not in practice. If he want to be responsible for his own production and not dependent on conventional power plants, then he will need at least one extra powerwall.

Although it sheds some more light on how he perceives the issue, it doesn’t explain why it is unfair that someone gets a zero electricity invoice by putting surplus production on the grid and taking it back in winter. At first I thought that, maybe, just maybe, he realized that the quality of the two is not the same after all, but apparently this was not the case:

For this the grid compensation (or prosumer tarif) is created. You pay a fee as a prosumer (producer & consumer) for the use of the grid. Only it does not take into account whether you have a high or low own consumption. Basically, exemplary network users will be penalized! But there is definitely an alternative: the bidirectional meter.

Aha! Now the pieces fall together and I began to understand what exactly he had an issue with. This prosumer tax is a fixed cost (in his case 386 euro per year in 2016), and now he uses the grid less often because of his powerwall, so he would like to pay less. For that, he proposes the bidirectional meter.

He emphases the message even more in his reaction on a comment on that same Facebook post:

Because we use the high-voltage grid less, I also believe that we will eliminate this cost from our invoice.

It is up to the large industry, which still need of power lines, to pay for the choice of flexible power production if they are not themselves investing in local production.

But they must contribute as much to the energy transition, just as the families now have to pay via for example the turtel tax! (a tax for consumers of electricity to compensate for for example the subsidies given to solar panel owners)

Flexible power production? That is a unique name for “intermittent” power production.

It is again a fundamental misunderstanding how the power grid works. It seems to assume that the local (intermittent) production somehow will be sufficient for individual power users and that it is big industry that is in need of a high voltage power grid. Although he realizes that solar energy is intermittent, he fails to realize that this comes with consequences, like the need for backup. Individual users will still need a power grid, also those users that have solar panels and a powerwall.

Sure, he uses the grid less often, but at the wrong time. He uses it at times when there is already a lot of strain on the grid like in winter:

There are indeed not many days last winter when his system injected surplus power into the grid.

The only advantage that I could think of is that if there is enough power in the powerwall to bridge the peak hours on working days, then it has the potential to relieve the grid. Only a bit. This wil need a lot of powerwalls to be installed and a good timing to make it happen in practice.

I have the impression that he sees himself as a producer of energy, because he “puts 70% of his production on the grid”. However, if his consumption is about the same as the capacity of his solar panels, then as far as I know, he is in fact a consumer who lends out part of his production to get it back later.

More, he only lends out his surplus when it suits him (when his panels are producing, whether or not the power is needed on the grid) and takes it back at a later time when he needs it.

That means that he not only produces/consumes when it suits him, he also takes back more at times when consumption is high (winter) and produces more when consumption is low (summer). Counting on the reliability and robustness of the grid to compensate him for the time that no solar energy is available. In the end, he even want Big Industry to pay for it.

I agree that this is indeed not fair.

Although not for the reason he thinks it is. 😉


2 thoughts on “It is not fair!

  1. poitsplace

    Well he could pay the “fair” amount by paying residential rates (which I suspect are about .30 to .50 euro per KW/H when he uses it but receive only the wholesale spot price for power, which thanks to green initiatives, will almost always be extremely low. Oh, and of course pay the monthly cost for maintaining his connection (which might be covered by the fixed fee he’s complaining about).

    Of course THEN he’d probably be paying about 75% of his original electricity bill.


    1. trustyetverify Post author

      As far as I understand his situation, he is doing so since recently. He changed from a backwards running meter to a bidirectional meter, producing at €0.06/kWh and consuming at €0.23/kWh, but doesn’t pay for the yearly recurring prosumer tax. He made some calculations, but since he only gives one-sided information and the calculation were made relative of each other, I don’t know if I can trust his calculations. Maybe a post on that in the future.



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