Martin Lewis has urged people to stop using their washing machines during a three-hour window in the day.
The MoneySavingExpert founder warned that using high-energy appliances during peak times could result in a bigger energy bill.
Mr Lewis discussed the threat of blackouts this winter during an appearance on ITV’s This Morning, alongside hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield, after the National Grid warned there could be power outages on “really, really cold” winter days.
National Grid boss John Pettigrew said last month that 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.
In response, Mr Lewis issued what he called a “general energy security message” that should have “been said more by the government” to viewers. Speaking on the programme, he said: “We are looking at energy difficulties this winter. We hope there will not be any blackouts. But there are emergency scenarios where power cuts - short power cuts - in different regions are possible that have been put forward by National Grid.”
The finance guru explained that the peak time for energy usage was between 4pm and 7pm, which is the time of day the National Grid warned blackouts could be imposed. As such, Mr Lewis advised that people should avoid using their washing machines and dryers during these peak hours so that demand for electricity is reduced, thereby minimising the risk of blackouts.
He said: “Let’s all try not to put stuff we don’t need to put on between 4pm and 7pm. If we can avoid using lots of energy between 4pm and 7pm and it makes no difference to our lives, then we should all be somewhat conscious of that, whether or not it’s cheaper, because it will collectively help us all.”
It comes after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt extended help with energy costs for all households in his autumn statement, although at a less generous level, meaning millions will still face higher bills. The energy price guarantee is set to continue for a further 12 months from April, but will rise from the current £2,500 to £3,000 per year for the average household.
The Chancellor also announced new one-off cost of living payments of £900 to households on means-tested benefits, £300 to pensioner households, and £150 for individuals on disability benefit.
Why could households face blackouts this winter?
As a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russian gas imports, many European countries are facing gas shortages.
A large amount of electricity is generated from gas, putting strain on national electricity supplies as demand increases as the weather gets colder. The UK gets 40% of its electricity from gas-fired power stations while gas heats the vast majority of homes.
The UK does not rely on imported gas from Russia but it does import electricity and gas from European countries that rely on Russian gas, and this supply could be limited due to strained relations with the Kremlin.
In the face of the “challenging” winter facing European energy supplies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) is planning for what would happen if there were no imports of electricity from Europe.
To tackle a loss of imports from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, there are two gigawatts of coal-fired power plants on standby to fire up if needed to meet demand.
The ESO has warned that UK households and businesses may face planned three-hour outages during the winter to ensure the grid does not collapse.
The planned blackouts is the most dire of three possible scenarios that the ESO has set out for how Britain’s electricity grid might cope with the worst global energy crisis for decades.
In the other two scenarios, the operator hopes that by paying people to charge their electric cars at off-peak times, and firing up back-up coal plants, it can offset the risk of blackouts.
The lights will stay on this winter unless the gas-fired power plants that produced 43% of Britain’s electricity over the last year cannot get enough gas to continue operating. The margins between peak demand and power supply are expected to be sufficient and similar to recent years in the National Grid ESO’s base case scenario for this winter.
Are there any plans to help prevent blackouts?
The National Grid has launched an energy saving scheme to reward households for using electricity during off-peak hours.
It means that households across the UK will get money off their energy bills if they reduce their electricity usage at certain times of the day.
Energy watchdog Ofgem approved the proposals for National Grid electricity system operator (ESO) to launch the programme, called a demand flexibility service, from November until March as part of efforts to avoid potential blackouts this winter.
The financial incentive for those who switch their power usage away from high demand times is set at £3 per kilowatt hour. The ESO increased the incentive from 52p in a bid to ease pressure on the UK power grids this winter.
The energy discount scheme aims to encourage households to use their washing machines and appliances late at night. The network operator said households could save up to £100 through the limited scheme.