A year ago we bought a new build flat with solar panels on the roof which generate electricity.  Meters in a cupboard record how many kilowatt hours our panels are (a) currently generating and (b) have produced over their lifetime.  As you might imagine, visits to the cupboard are frequent.  I have become addicted to studying the cheerful meters and winking lights.  For me, sunny days, that I had always enjoyed simply because they were sunny, were elevated to win-wins.

For some months I cherished being a double whammy sun worshipper – until the first electricity bill arrived from SSE with no sign of the rebate I was expecting as a proud contributor to the National Grid.  I phoned SSE and was told that my panels, despite their being busy and productive for months, had not been registered.  As far as the authorities were concerned, they did not exist.

I was tempted to enquire why the powers that be hadn’t noticed that the National Grid had acquired an anonymous/generous benefactor, but realised that it was not in their best interests to track me down.  It was up to me to take the initiative, reveal my identity and claim my rebate.

SSE emailed me the Feed-In Tariff forms I needed to complete.  Many of the questions were technical and beyond my comprehension but, fortunately, the builder of our flat got his electricians to help me complete the forms.  Without their help, our solar panels would have remained illegitimate and ignored for their natural life.

Feeling triumphant, I sent the forms off with the MCS certificate.

Nothing happened.

I telephoned SSE and was (eventually) put through to the Feed-In Tariff Department in Cardiff.  They confirmed that the documents I had sent had been received but explained there was a backlog and that it would not be possible to process my  application for a couple of months.  I thought to myself (but did not actually say for fear of antagonising the people upon whom the success of my application depended) that this was a ploy to delay the day when they would have to admit the legitimacy of my solar panels and reimburse me for the electricity generated.

I decided that there was nothing for it but to wait patiently.  My patience was rewarded (just as my late parents always said it would be) with a communication saying that my application couldn’t proceed until I provided Missing Information.  They required:

  1. A corrected MCS certificate.  Apparently the certificate I had submitted described our panels as ‘Standalone’.  However, it transpires that this applies to solar panels that are installed in fields, not to solar panels attached to buildings.  Our panels, it seems, have to be described as ‘Non Standalone’.  (By the way, I’m sure this distinction between standalone and non standalone, is something you should note.  It’s bound to come up in Trivial Pursuit or in a pub quiz and everyone will be mightily impressed that you know it.)
  2. An invoice showing that we owned the solar panels and that they had been paid for.
  3. Verification from the Post Office that our address had been permanently registered.

As it turned out, each of these items created difficulties.  The company that had installed the solar panels, and therefore issued the MCS certificate, had gone into liquidation and no one else would issue a corrected certificate.  I even went so far as to suggested to one firm that they should come and dismantle our installation and put it back together again so that they would be eligible to issue a new MCS certificate.  Fortunately they thought I was joking!  In the end, I contacted the MCS people myself and they took pity on me and issued a corrected certificate.  Whew!

The builder eventually produced an invoice showing he had paid the company who installed our solar panels (obviously not sufficient to prevent them going into liquidation).

The Post Office was puzzled when I asked them to confirm that they had registered our address, but they obliged.  However, it seems that the SSE Feed-In Tariff people rely on the address provided by the Ofgem database which, unfortunately, varies in a small detail (so small, that ordinary mortals would think it insignificant) from the address according to the Post Office.  This is a mystery beyond my solving since Ofgem get the address from the Post Office!

At the time of writing I am still waiting for confirmation that my entirely innocent, hardworking solar panels will get the recognition they deserve.  If I was paranoid (which I refuse to be) I would suspect deliberate delaying tactics on the part of SSE.

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