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People could be paid to use appliances 'off peak' under the National Grid's Demand Flexibility Service starting in November





Homes could be paid for using energy at off peak times from next month as part of efforts to avoid a winter of blackouts.

Under proposals outlined this week to protect the nation's energy supply, people may be able to earn money by agreeing to avoid using electricity at certain times of the day.

Designed by the National Grid, the finer details of the Demand Flexibility Service are yet to be thrashed out but here's how the scheme is expected to operate.

The Demand Flexibility Service will begin in November
The Demand Flexibility Service will begin in November

What is the Demand Flexibility Service?

Designed by the National Grid, the Demand Flexibility Service involves energy users being offered an incentive to either reduce or turn off their energy consumption at key times during the day or evening to try and reduce the demand for energy across the system.

It has been developed to give ESO, the electricity system operator for Great Britain, access to additional flexibility - which it doesn't currently have - that it can call on when demand for energy is at its highest during the cold winter days ahead.

The National Grid is asking people to seek out schemes through their energy supplier. Image: PA.
The National Grid is asking people to seek out schemes through their energy supplier. Image: PA.

Why might it be needed?

There are fears the UK could face its first planned power cuts since the 1970s if energy supplies run low this winter.

The potential for an international power supply crisis is low, says the government, but planners are preparing for a worst-case scenario should rising energy prices and squeezed supplies in Europe leave the UK struggling to supply homes and businesses.

When will the scheme start?

While the finer details of the scheme and its mechanics are yet to be published the scheme will come into play from November 1 and is expected to run until the end of March.

People could be asked to charge their electric vehicles outside of peak hours this winter. Image: Stock photo.
People could be asked to charge their electric vehicles outside of peak hours this winter. Image: Stock photo.

How will it work?

People who agree to switch their energy off at peak times, or use appliances during specified off-peak hours, will essentially be paid for placing less pressure on the National Grid.

That money is expected to be given to them either as credits on their energy bills, rather like the Energy Bills Discount scheme, or as cash paid directly into their bank account.

How much people will earn is not yet clear, and could depend on their current energy tariff and supplier, but it's been reported that savings of as much as £10 a day could be possible - albeit it is unlikely the scheme would run continuously over a number of days or weeks.

While the finer details of the scheme and how it would work day-to-day have not been made public, those who are signed up will most likely be given notice the day before that they need to alter their energy usage the following day and could be given details of specific peak times they need to avoid based on estimations about future demand.

What are the peak and off peak times?

Off peak times are when demand for energy is at its lowest and it is during peak times that officials are most concerned that demand for gas and electricity this winter could outstrip supply.

Off-peak hours tend to be between 10pm and 8am each day, while it has been reported that the peak time ESO would like to see energy usage cut back - in the event of high demand on the grid - is between 4pm and 7pm.

It is avoiding these times, when using appliances such as washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers, that could see households make money.

Homes with a smart metre could be eligible to sign-up
Homes with a smart metre could be eligible to sign-up

Who is eligible to join?

Households with smart metres, which relay regular energy consumption readings to suppliers, are expected to be the most obvious candidates and having a smart meter may turn out to be a condition of being able to sign-up.

But whether all energy suppliers offer a version of the proposal to their customers remains to be seen and is likely to depend on a number of factors.

ESO is also expected to look at businesses who may be able to shift their peak hours of operation too and whether they also could be rewarded or offered an incentive.

But whether you're a home or business, your participation in any off-peak scheme will remain voluntary and no one has any power to forcibly turn your electricity off.

The organisation says it will 'work with suppliers across the winter to understand the availability of both consumers and companies to participate'.

Businesses able to shift their peak hours of operation could also be asked to join a scheme. Image: Stock photo.
Businesses able to shift their peak hours of operation could also be asked to join a scheme. Image: Stock photo.

How do you sign-up?

The National Grid is encouraging all domestic customers to seek-out any off peak saving schemes with their suppliers as they become available or are publicised.

It will most likely be your supplier that offers you the chance, if you're eligible, to sign up to an off-peak scheme so it is worth paying close attention to any correspondence you're sent in the coming weeks or months.

Earlier this year Octopus offered tens of thousands of its customers the chance to join a trial scheme, which involved cutting energy usage during peak times, while OVO suggests some of its customers, which number more than four million, could save around £20 a month by joining their current version of an energy-saving scheme which it unveiled this month.



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