Can households with solar PV sell export to other members of the Energy Local Bridport Club? Is it worth me installing solar PV to sell into the Club?
The answer to both of these questions is yes, we hope so, but not yet.
The software used by Octopus to do the billing is not yet ready to accept many small generators, and so as things currently stand, you cannot sell from your own house’s PV. However, work on this is currently ongoing, with one of the Energy Local Clubs in Wales being used to test it. Once it is shown to be working, the Directors of Energy Local Bridport may well open the Club up to owners of existing domestic PV. We cannot be sure when this will be, but it is likely to be early 2021 at the earliest. The COVID lockdown has slowed work on the software and the testing. Members of the Club will be informed by the Directors by email once this is possible.
Once it is possible, should members who currently have not got PV install some PV to feed into the Club?
At first glance, it seems like a good idea. If you can sell exports at 9.5p/kWh, then there would be a greater financial incentive to invest in PV than there has been for many years. However, we’d like to stress a note of caution. This export rate is available if the electricity can be sold into the Club. The Club works by trading electricity in half hour slots. Whether or not your export could be sold into the Club depends upon how high the demand for electricity is during the half-hour window that you are exporting it. Because many households have a low demand for electricity during the day when people are not at home, there may not be a strong demand for electricity in the Club at the time when the PV is generating.
If demand is higher than supply, you can sell to the Club. If it is not, your export would not go into the Club; you would instead sell your electricity to Octopus for a pre-agreed export price, currently around 5.5p/kWh.
Whilst we think that demand in the Club is normally going to be higher than supply (we have tried to design it this way), we cannot guarantee it until the Club has been up and running for several months, and we have data on how Club members’ electricity use varies.
Once we have data, it may be obvious that demand always exceeds supply, and that 9.5p/kWh for exported domestic PV can be expected (though never guaranteed).
One way to ensure there is a demand for solar PV in the Club would be to bring some new members with high daytime electricity demands – such as local shops and factories – into the Club. These would be demanding electricity when solar panels are outputting the most, and houses that are currently in the Club are using the least. Dorset Community Energy has recently been awarded grant funding to do a feasibility study into adding more solar PV to the Club. Part of this will be looking for sites for a 200-kWp PV array, but part of it will be identifying and signing up businesses with large daytime demands. If this second part is successful, and again after several months of monitoring, it may be that Energy Local Bridport’s Directors open up the Club to new small generators. That would be the point at which you would consider installing on your own roof to sell to the Club. There are many unknowns, so we cannot give a date when this may happen. Sometime in mid to late 2021 is our best current guess.