Power off from 4-7pm to save £240 this winter! Up to one million homes could be paid to avoid using costly appliances during peak times as part of huge National Grid scheme to combat looming blackouts
- Households could be offered £20 a day to cut electric usage at peak times in a bid to avoid winter blackouts
- Deal relies on unreliable smart meters but have been installed in only half of homes and small businesses
- National Grid says their scheme will help them measure how much energy use can be shifted outside 4-7pm
- If blackouts are feared because of a lack of supply, then the only way is to reduce demand at particular times
Millions of Britons could get up to £240 off their energy bills this winter if they use their appliances at night after a scheme designed to help avoid blackouts was made more generous, MailOnline can reveal today.
Households could receive payments of up to £20-a-day if they don’t use washing machines, tumble dryers, dishwashers and even games consoles between 4pm and 7pm.
The National Grid’s Electricity Systems Operator (ESO), which manages supply and demand of energy in the UK, hopes at least 1million homes with smart meters will sign up to its so-called ‘demand flexibility service’ scheme, which is set to run between November 2022 and March 2023.
And after listening to concerns from energy firms, National Grid is proposing to pay a rate of £3 per kwh saved instead of 52p to incentivise people to take part. But some experts have said it needs to be more like £6 if they want to get the public on side.
Households will be asked on 12 occasions to use less energy at peak times likely to be either 4pm until 7pm or 2pm until 9pm over then next five months. There may also be a test in the morning peak.
They will be advised to use washing machines, tumble dryers, ovens, dishwashers and other appliances outside those periods so boffins can measure how much energy is saved on the grid when it is at its busiest. If the entire proposed £3 per kwh rebate if passed on to Britons by their supplier, over five months this could mean around £240 off their bills in total.
This is what Britons could be paid back if they take part in a scheme that will ask them to limit energy use at peak times, 12 times in the
Before she resigned Liz Truss said that there will be no energy rationing this winter but the National Grid scheme forms part of a worst-case scenario drawn up by the National Grid’s Electricity Systems Operator if the UK receives no imports of electricity from Europe this winter alongside a shortage of gas.
Experts have predicted that turning off the lights on days when the wind doesn’t blow might also be suggested.
What are blackouts and why might they happen this winter?
National Grid has warned that there could be blackouts this winter if gas power plants are not able to keep running due to the energy crisis.
The electricity systems operator said it is still unlikely but winter could see the first planned blackouts, which the grid calls rota load shedding, since the 1970s.
But why might blackouts happen this year – who will be impacted and what can be done to avoid them?
Why would a grid ever plan blackouts?
Engineers working on the energy grid need to make sure it is ‘balanced’ at all times.
This means that the amount of electricity being put into the grid by power plants, wind farms and others should match the amount being taken out by households and businesses at any given time.
The grid plans for when it thinks demand can be high so it can ask generators to meet that demand.
But if there is ever an imbalance where demand is higher than supply or supply is higher than demand, it can cause major breakdowns in the grid.
That could cause actual physical damage to the grid that could take days to repair.
If the engineers know there will not be enough supply to match demand, sometimes they need to reduce demand by planned outages to avoid major damage.
Why might blackouts be necessary this winter?
Britain has one of the most reliable power networks in the world and unless cables are cut by storms or other accidents outages are rare.
But this winter, gas generators might not be able to get enough gas to keep running.
The grid said that if this happens, it still thinks that is ‘unlikely’, then it might have to cut power to some households and businesses.
Who will be impacted by blackouts and who gets cut off first?
If the grid realises that it has to cut off some parts of the country, it will issue a warning to the local and regional distributors saying how much demand needs to be cut.
It will be up to these so-called distribution network operators to decide who gets cut off and who does not.
But the DNOs have limited controls so most of the time it will be whole areas that are impacted.
How can we avoid blackouts?
If the blackouts are caused by a lack of supply, then the only way is to reduce demand at particular times.
Most demand happens during peak hours of between around 4pm and 7pm when people get home from work, put the kettle on, switch on their ovens and sit down to watch TV.
The overall amount of electricity that people use does not have to reduce if they just change their usage to other times of the day.
For instance, electric cars could be unplugged during these hours, switching the dishwasher could wait until 9pm and you could put the washing machine on earlier in the day or during the weekend.
The grid and energy suppliers will launch a new system in November to pay people if they change the time that they use energy.
The Government could also step in to ration peoples’ energy use or advise them to use less, similar to a hosepipe ban, but so far it has ruled this out.
The National Grid’s Electricity Systems Operator hope the ‘demand flexibility service’ scheme could save 2GW of electricity – equivalent to powering 1million homes – and will help the see how much energy use can be ‘shifted’ from peak times to manage supply and demand. They want as many people as possible to take part.
But the scheme relies on users having a controversial smart meter, a device which automatically transmits your energy usage to your provider.
So far around 29.5 million smart meters have been installed in homes and small businesses around the UK – which means that just under half do not have one.
There have been many complaints about the devices, ranging from them logging inaccurate readings that lead to inflated bills to stopping working altogether.
The roll out of smart meters has been plagued by an industry-wide supply problem – but hundreds of thousands of households are unable to get one because they live in high-rise flats, old properties with thick walls, or remote regions with poor signal.
Some critics have said that it should have been rolled out to all homes, regardless of whether they have a smart meter.
Planned blackouts hit the UK during the 1970s in response to the miners strikes and the oil crisis. There have also been major unplanned outages in storms, including in 1987 when over 1.5 million people were left in the dark.
But the lights will stay on this winter unless the gas-fired power plants that produced 43 per cent of Britain’s electricity over the last year cannot get enough gas to continue operating.
It is the most dire of three possible scenarios that the ESO laid out on Thursday 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 backup coal plants it can offset the risk of blackouts.
The margins between peak demand and power supply are expected to be sufficient and similar to recent years in the National Grid Electricity System Operator’s (ESO) base case scenario for this winter.
But in the face of the ‘challenging’ winter facing European energy supplies following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the grid operator is also planning for what would happen if there were no imports of electricity from Europe and insufficient gas supplies.
To tackle a loss of imports from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, there are two gigawatts of coal-fired power plants on stand-by to fire up if needed to meet demand.
The National Grid Gas Transmission separately said that while gas demand will increase this winter, it expects Britain to be able to get enough gas to take it through a Beast from the East scenario or a long, cold winter.
People are being encouraged to sign up with their electricity supplier to a scheme which will give them money back on their bills to shift their use of power away from times of high demand to help prevent blackouts.
Households tend to consume a fifth of their daily energy between 4pm and 7pm, according to data from Ovo Energy. The supplier on Thursday said its customers could save £100 if they signed up to use energy at off-peak times.
That could mean putting on the dishwasher or washing machine overnight or charging an EV at off-peak times.
Earlier this year, The Times reported that the figure required to make the scheme work, and attractive to consumers, was £6 per kWh.
‘Customers should be properly incentivised to join up front — ie at least £1 to £2 per kWh,’ an Octopus representative warned National Grid at the briefing, The Times reported.
They added that customers were ‘expecting up to £6 per kWh’, the rate mooted in proposals reported in June by The Times.
A representative from Eon at the briefing said that payments need to be around £2 per kWh, arguing that the repayments are ‘not high enough to incentivise customers to take part’, The Times reported.
Households will be encouraged to sign up to a ‘demand flexibility service’ that rewards them for using off-peak electricity. They could be paid for taking measures such as running appliances at night – but they must have a smart meter
In addition, larger businesses will be paid for reducing demand, for example by shifting their times of energy use or switching to batteries or generators in peak times.
The ‘demand flexibility service’ will run from November to March, and it is expected to swing into action 12 times whatever happens to ensure people get rewarded for being part of the scheme — with additional use if needed to protect supplies.
In September, energy expert Kathryn Porter, from consultancy Watt-Logic, said it was possible all households could be asked not to use energy guzzling appliances at peak hours or eat their dinner at a different time if it is a very cold winter or Russia strangles supply of gas.
In the US tens of millions of people have been asked not to use washing machines, dishwashers and ovens between 2pm and 8pm because of the global energy crisis. Charging cars before 9pm is also not advised.
Away from the home, in Germany, street lights are being dimmed, traffic lights at quieter junctions are turned off, hot water and central heating is off in public buildings and monuments will no longer be lit overnight.
Ms Porter has said that it’s ‘very possible’ the UK will see plans for energy rationing, despite Liz Truss absolutely ruling it out.
She told BBC’s World at One: ‘Unfortunately, as each winter goes by, the risk of blackouts is increasing because we have been replacing thermal and nuclear generation with intermittent renewables. That makes us vulnerable in times when wind output is low.
‘We have had quite low wind output in July and August…Demand is a lot higher in the winter, so if we have those weather conditions in the winter, our system is going to get very tight and that raises a risk of blackouts.’
With similar schemes in California and Texas – Ms Porter expects that authorities could ask consumers to reduce their use of electricity during peak hours – although in the US all these schemes are not enforced in law.
‘It is possible we will see something similar here this winter,’ she said, adding: ‘I think it would be more an appeal or request for people to have their dinner earlier or later, or avoid using large appliances like washing machines during peak hours. I think it would be voluntary rather than compulsory’.
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