Kris Coventry writes: In June of 2008, in a burst of altruism and eco-friendliness, I decided it was time to “do my bit”. While the newly installed Kevin07 government debated whether “the greatest moral challenge of our time” was actually real, and if it was, then how best to deal with it, I decided to take action. With my credit card poised, I clicked away four thousand of my hard earned dollars.

Several months later, I had six gleaming PV panels sitting on the roof of my house pumping electricity into the grid every time the sun poked through the Melbourne sky. One advantage of a drought is that the sun does this most of the time, so it was exciting to see the dial on my old-fashioned electricity meter actually spinning backwards. Yes! I was making my own electricity.

But I could do better than this, I was told. With a new modern “smart” meter, I would be able to work out exactly how much energy I was producing and how much I was consuming. I would get extra credit for the energy I put into the grid. Something called a “feed-in tariff.” That sounded good too.

After a couple of hundred more hard earned dollars had been removed from my credit card, I had a new “smart” electricity meter and a new hobby — electricity counting.

For those who’ve never tried it (which is probably most of you), electricity counting is great fun. I would come home from work after a sunny day to find that I had generated 7 kWh of electricity while my house had only consumed 1 kWh in my absence. Other times, on a cloudy Saturday I would be inspired to do some cleaning, only to find that the cumulative efforts of my vacuum cleaner, dish washer and washing machine had chewed up 10 kWh in a day when I would only generate 2 kWh.

But overall, I was in front. I was making more power than I was consuming. It felt great. I was doing my bit, and it was just a matter of time before my cheap electricity bills made me feel even better.

Unfortunately, that “time” has now stretched to two years. When I got my first bill from my new friends at TRUenergy, and saw that I hadn’t received a cent of credit for my newly generated power, I rang up to ask why. “Still sorting out the legislation…” was the seemingly reasonable response. “Give us a few more months, but don’t worry, we’re still counting your electricity. You’ll get credited for it later on.”

Fine, I thought. The fun of electricity counting and my overwhelming feeling of altruism stretched even to electricity retailers. They need a chance to sort it out.

There followed a series of phone calls to my friends at TRUenergy over a couple of years. Teething troubles, billing problems, technology issues… I think I have now heard almost every excuse available from TRUenergy and the feeling of altruism is wearing a bit thin.

So I look forward to my next correspondence from TRUenergy. I still live in the optimistic hope that I will receive some credit for the 2000 kWh of electricity I have given them (worth well over a thousand dollars with the feed-in tariff).

In the mean time, counting the interest I have failed to earn on the money outlaid, I am well over $5000 worse off and have nothing to show for it.

TRUenergy could at least have sent me a Christmas card to say thanks. Maybe this year.

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Peter Fray
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