British Gas to pay customers to use less electricity as it joins National Grid blackout scheme

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Households will be paid for reducing their energy use during specific times

British Gas will pay its customers to cut the amount of electricity they use during peak hours of the day this winter.

Households will be paid around £4 for every unit of electricity that they reduce their consumption by during specific times, the energy supplier said.

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Those who sign up to the scheme will be sent a text at 6pm the day before to inform them when to switch off appliances, such as washing machines, TVs and ovens. The scheme doesn’t mean that appliances cannot be used at all, it just simply encourages people to use them during off-peak times of the day in order to help take pressure off the grid. It could mean that switching your oven on an hour later than normal will earn you £4.

The supplier becomes the latest – and the largest – to sign up to the Demand Flexibility Service – which is run by the National Grid. There is no obligation for customers to take part in the scheme, but British Gas is hoping that around 100,000 customers will sign up.

However, its ambitions for participation are lower than Octopus Energy, which has so far signed up more than 400,000 customers to its version of the scheme. Customers with smart meters will be sent emails asking them if they want to take part, British Gas said.

British Gas will pay customers for reducing their energy use during specific times (Photo: Adobe)British Gas will pay customers for reducing their energy use during specific times (Photo: Adobe)
British Gas will pay customers for reducing their energy use during specific times (Photo: Adobe) | brizmaker - stock.adobe.com

Chief executive Chris O’Shea explained: “The electricity grid is facing increased pressure and smart technology plays a key role in managing peak demand – reducing consumption has the added benefit of helping consumers save on their energy bills.

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“We are exploring how to make this scheme work best for our customers so that it fits in with their habits around the home. This approach to help manage residential electricity demand is likely to become a major feature of the market in years to come. We’ll be taking learnings from this stage with the aim of using our scale to roll out to our wider customer base.”

Why is the Demand Flexibility Service needed?

The Demand Flexibility Service is a money-back scheme that is implemented by energy suppliers and monitored using a smart meter to help prevent winter blackouts.

Without the scheme, there could be cold and still days creating high demand and low levels of wind power, meaning there may be a need to interrupt supply to some customers for limited periods, National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) winter outlook said.

If the grid is able to ask people to reduce their consumption during peak hours, it will not need to pay high costs to get electricity from other sources, such as importing it from France.

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The ESO also warned that if there is not enough gas to keep the country’s power stations going in January it could force distributors to cut off electricity to households and businesses for three-hour blocks during the day.

National Grid boss John Pettigrew said blackouts would have to be imposed in the “deepest darkest evenings” in January and February if electricity generators did not have enough gas to meet demand, particularly if there is a bout of cold weather.

Pettigrew has told households to prepare for blackouts between 4pm and 7pm on weekdays during “really, really cold” days in January and February if gas imports are reduced.

British Gas’s decision to join the scheme comes just days after it was almost run live for the first time since launching earlier this month. There have been three tests of the system to date, with households helping to take the stress off the grid during those hours.

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