Installing solar panels isn’t just about going green and saving on your power bill, they can also be a way to make money by selling excess energy back to the grid, commonly know as buy-back.
So, when running the numbers on solar’s suitability for your home, it’s important to factor in buy-back rates when determining whether solar is right for your household.
In the following guide, we take a look at what you should keep in mind when setting up solar, and some of the deals on offer from power companies.
Setting up solar: dealing with power companies
Of course, when assessing solar’s suitability for your household, it’s important to weigh up the short-term costs versus the potential long-term savings. Tools such as the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority’s solar tool, available here at the Gen Less website, a good starting point.
Almost all solar systems require installation by a licensed electrician or inspector, and it’s worthwhile shopping around to get a gauge on the types of deals being offered.
Power companies sometimes work in conjunction with solar installers. So getting in touch with different retailers in your area when seeking out an installer can be a good starting point.
Most households that install a solar system will remain connected to the mains power grid. This is so they have a ready supply of power during times of high demand and at night.
If you plan on exporting excess electricity into the grid, you’ll need to arrange for your power company to install an import/export meter, capable of recording the import and export usage to the network.
When setting up your meter, it’s important to confirm:
- How much the meter will cost to install
- The tariff options available with the meter, including what you will pay for electricity and the buy-back rates on offer
- Your contract length
- Any limits on the size of your solar system. Often they are limited to under 10kW
Power company solar offerings
The following are some of the solar offerings available from different power companies around the country. Prices are subject to change, so it’s important to follow up with retailers to determine buy-back rates and import/export meter installation costs.
While Mercury sold its Mercury Solar business to ChargeSmart in early 2021, it still offers solar buy-backs nationwide, with the exception of the Network Waitaki and The Lines Company networks.
- Buy-back rate: 8c per unit; customers on the Vector network receive 12c per unit and Counties Network customers 10.89c per unit (rates excluding GST and discounts)
- Import/export meter: $99 (including GST)
Consumers can request a solar consultation via the Genesis Energy website, with Genesis-approved installers located at select major centres around the country. HomeGen, available to Genesis electricity customers with approved generation equipment with less than a 50kW output, allows for unused electricity to be sold into the grid.
- Buy-back rate: 12c per kWh (appears as a separate credit line on a customer’s regular bill)
- Import/export meter: $127 (including installation)
Contact Energy advises that for customers looking to set up a solar system, it can install an import/export meter for either less or greater than 10kW output. Customers can apply via Contact’s website.
- Buy-back rate: Customers will see the amount of distributed generation they’re selling on their electricity bill, where applicable. You need to get in touch with Contact personally for buy-back rates
- Import/export meter: installation will incur a cost of $190
Meridian Energy advises that it will work alongside customers or their solar provider to ensure an import/export meter is installed. Customers are able to make a solar enquiry via the Meridian website.
- Buy-back rate: 8c per kWh (applicable for all solar panel systems with a rated capacity of up to 10kW). Consumers interested in equipment that generates more than 10kW need to talk to Meridian about their options
- Import/export meter: Consumers need to get in touch with Meridian regarding cost
Trustpower advises that it buys electricity from many small-scale domestic generators under a 10kW capacity. Trustpower’s Solar Buddies program provides additional options, allowing customers to sell excess electricity to other Trustpower customers nominated as buddies at an agreed rate.
- Buy-back rate: 7c per kWh (plus GST if applicable)
- Import/export meter: starting from $155 (including GST)
- Solar Buddies: buddies can be on different rates, with the option to also provide free power. Customers are able to sell a maximum of 50 units to each buddy per month, with the options of allocating power by order of priority, or allowing each buddy to always get a set percentage
Harrisons Solar is currently running a deal with Trustpower. If you purchase a new Harrisons Solar PV system and switch your power to Trustpower on a 24-month term contract, Trustpower will buy back your extra solar generation at 16c per unit (excluding GST). The 16c per unit buy-back rate applies up to a maximum of 500 units per month and is guaranteed for the life of the 24-month contract. This could add up to a $1920 rebate over the 24-month term. Any additional excess generation will be bought by Trustpower at the standard buy-back rate, currently 8.5c per unit. For more details, click here.
Ecotricity says that its ecoWHOLESALE and ecoSAVER plans are designed to support the uptake of solar installations. It has partnered with solar specialists around the country to help with the installation process.
- Buy-back rate: further information on ecoWHOLESALE and ecoSAVER pricing can be found at the Ecotricity website
- Import/export meter: a charge of $80 applies for meter installation
Powershop advises that it will buy back any excess generation from customers with a solar installation of under 10kW, and an appropriate import/export meter.
- Buy-back rate: 8.5c per kWh
- Import/export meter: $150 (meter and installation fee)
Nova Energy states that it can pay for excess power exported by residential customers with solar panels rated to generate up to 10kW. The buy-back power charges are clearly shown on their bills.
- Buy-back rate: 7.4c per kWh (excluding GST on any applicable prompt payment discount)
- Import/export meter: Nova says that it can assist with import/export meter installations
Flick Electric is trialling a home generation solar plan that offers electricity buy-back at wholesale prices. However, Flick is currently not accepting any new customers.
Further information on pricing can be found at individual retailer websites. This should be used as a starter guide and not considered an actual quote.
Compare electricity providers with Canstar Blue
If you are considering solar, the right power plan is paramount. But finding the right provider can be a real challenge. Less than half of Kiwis believe they are getting a good deal on their power, yet only 12% of us have actually changed our electricity provider in the last 12-months.
If you are looking to change electricity providers, or are unsure if you are getting the best deal, Canstar Blue can help. We rate NZ power companies for customer satisfaction and value for money, see the table below for some of the results, or you can click on the button below for the full results of our survey.
Canstar Blue’s latest review of NZ power companies compares them on customer satisfaction. The table below is an abridged version of our full results, available here.
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Canstar Blue NZ Research finalised in April 2021, published in June 2021.
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About the author of this page
This report was written by Canstar author Martin Kovacs. Martin is a freelance writer with experience covering the business, consumer technology and utilities sectors. Martin has written about a wide range of topics across both print and digital publications, including the manner in which industry continues to adapt and evolve amid the rollout of new technologies