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Customer left with $1300 owing after solar power installation didn't cut power bills?

A customer who installed solar power at his property but continued to receive high bills has had his electricity company offer to wipe his debt.

The man had solar panels and batteries installed at his property in 2017. He said he was under the understanding that this would lower his power bills because he would not need to use electricity from the grid as much.

In February 2018, he signed up on a low-user plan, which are designed for people who use less power than the average. They pay a lower daily fixed charge but a higher variable rate.

But in May he complained that his bills were high.

The customer said his power bills should have dropped after the new system was installed.

The retailer, which is not identified in the Utilities Disputes Commissioner's case note, said there was unlikely to be a fault with the solar set up, or his meter.

It said it was likely the customer increased his electricity use after he installed solar.

The retailer provided a usage report showing the solar, battery and grid use at the property. It said it believed the solar installation worked as expected. The retailer offered to recalculate the bills based on its standard user plan. This reduced the outstanding amount from $1289.09 to $539.68.

During a conciliation conference, the retailer offered to wipe the outstanding amount completely but the customer rejected that and asked the Utilities Disputes Commissioner to issue a recommendation.

The commissioner did not uphold the complaint. She said the solar power system was working as it should and the customer had simply used more power, in part because he had installed electric heaters. When the retailer visited and pointed out the likely impact of heating, his power usage dropped, she said.

She said the offer to wipe the amount owing was reasonable and it was up to him whether to accept it.

Consumer NZ head of research Jessica Wilson said her organisation had not had complaints about solar power systems not performing,

But she noted that, at the end of 2017, New Zealand Home Services was warned for overstating the likely returns from solar power.


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