Sense Blog

Sense’s new revenue-grade solar monitor solves the 3G meter dilemma

Worried about the demise of the 3G cellular network? Sense’s new revenue-grade monitor will eliminate future meter swap-outs for solar installations.

Between 2010-2020 more than 2 million residential solar panels were installed in the U.S. The growth was buoyed in part by strong federal policies, declining costs, and increasing demand for clean electricity. But the growth was also fueled by making systems more affordable with financing options for homeowners that reduced or removed upfront costs for system owners. The establishment of lucrative SREC markets have also made an impact by shortening the time for a positive return on investment.

Installations using these financial models rely upon the solar meters to provide accurate measurement of solar production and to communicate that information back to both homeowners and third parties that service them. However, starting as early as February 2022, the network that enables that communication for tens of thousands of meters may no longer be available.

Network providers like AT&T, Verizon and T-mobile announced last year that they would be retiring 3G networks as they bolster their rollout of new 5G networks. AT&T is set to be first, retiring their 3G network in February, with T-Mobile following in July and Verizon in December. Time is running out to swap out current meters for another technology that will work. Without swift action, the data needed to validate solar production for SRECs, billing for PPAs, and performance guarantees for leases will be lost, exposing both asset owners and their customers to significant losses.

Shown: Mobile roof top tower with antennae used for 4G, GSM and UMTS transmissions

Until now, cellular enabled revenue grade meters with 4G/LTE support have been the leading option for replacements. But this may serve as only a band-aid for the problem. Presumably, LTE will also be swapped out in the coming years, and those who make the swap will find themselves in the same situation in a few short years. Further complicating the replacement problem, global supply chain issues have limited meter availability. So as meters begin to go offline, there won’t be readily available replacements.

Some companies are putting the responsibility on homeowners to handle meter replacements, which, without guidance, has the makings of a negative experience that will leave customers dissatisfied with their provider. It also brings into question who will cover the expense of the new meters, including costs for new cellular service as well as additional fees for ongoing monitoring subscriptions (Historically, monitoring has been viewed as a cost center and repair/replacements often aren’t factored into ongoing services, so a second monitoring device exacerbates that problem.)

With so many hurdles facing this transition, it’s time to consider a new approach: Sense Solar with revenue-grade capabilities.

Sense is adding revenue-grade capabilities with an ANSI C12.20 0.5% certification for high accuracy to our award-winning Sense Solar home energy monitor. Sense installs seamlessly into the electrical panel and connects to the customer’s home wi-fi network. Our streamlined set-up helps establish a strong connection and has proven highly reliable in thousands of customer homes, making cellular subscriptions a thing of the past while future-proofing connectivity for many years to come.

Enabling the continued validation of system production data with no ongoing subscription costs, no cellular fees and no ongoing monitoring fees to absorb, solar asset owners and operators who select Sense have a significant market advantage. Not only do they eliminate the potential for additional meter swap-outs in the future, they reduce the risk to O&M budget and their bottom line. In addition to the Sense Fleet Manager application, our enterprise grade API and reporting tools allow for easy integration with third party platforms for ongoing reporting needs.

Sense Solar also opens the doors for new ways to engage with homeowners. The Sense app engages homeowners with the real-time solar production and energy use in their home. Homeowners can also look back to see historical use and find ways to better maximize the savings from going solar. Providing these insights helps build trust and loyalty, leading to new revenue opportunities such as EV charging solutions, storage, system expansion, HVAC, and other energy efficiency upgrades, dramatically increasing customer lifetime value.

It’s clear there is a very real silver lining to be found in the upcoming transition away from 3G. Savvy solar owners and operators will look at this as an opportunity instead of a challenge, with the help of Sense.

Learn more about Sense’s partner program.