Expert View: More cost transparency needed for generators selling their energy through PPAs

Hidden charges in power purchase agreements (PPAs), such as data collection and data aggregation costs, are leaving some generators out of pocket, despite the promise of a higher purchase price.

PPAs form an important part of the UK’s energy mix. They support local communities through the supply of renewable energy, helping to take the pressure off the grid and improving energy efficiency within the region. They also provide businesses with an additional revenue source and a means to build upon their sustainability credentials.

Different suppliers will offer their own terms and conditions for PPAs. However, there are a few core features that all good PPAs share. For example, they should accurately reflect the current market price, have clear payment terms, and be easily understood by both parties. There should also be a clear point of contact for any queries or issues.

Embedded benefits are also an important component, because these usually make up around 30 per cent of a total PPA rate. These are the added extras for exporting on to the grid, rather than importing. They are paid by the distribution network operator (DNO) to the supplier, who then passes this on to the exporter. Embedded benefits can be fixed or variable depending on the type of contract.

The challenge for generators looking to enter a PPA is that there’s a lot of choice when it comes to which supplier to partner with. While this gives generators a greater choice of potential contracts, not all suppliers charge in the same way. This can lead to generators being stung by hidden costs.

One charge that generators need to watch out for is Data Collection and Data Aggregation (DCDA) costs. This lesser-known charge, which covers the cost of onsite data collection, is often not reflected in the initial price. Fees can be around £200 to £300 per annum, which can make a big difference. Good suppliers will include this cost upfront, but it’s sensible to ask about this before signing a new contract. Otherwise, you run the risk of an unpleasant surprise down the line.

Generators should also be aware of DNO costs, which are charged for use of, and connection to, the distribution system. These tend to be standard across the board but it’s worth looking out for these in the small print.

The price for the electricity generated and being paid on time continue to be two of the most important considerations for generators looking to set up a PPA. But in the absence of full cost transparency, they run the risk of losing out in the longer term. Good suppliers will provide this information upfront rather than luring in prospective customers with high prices. But in all cases, it’s advisable for generators to do their research into potential hidden costs and the level of customer service as these will ultimately result in the best deal.

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