The UK is paying people not to use electricity

For several hours this week and for the rest of winter, UK residents can earn money by turning off lights, unplugging laptops and using the microwave to heat up dinner instead of cooking it in an electric oven.

National Grid, the UK’s electricity system operator, is partnering with energy companies to offer payments, via energy bills, to customers who use less electricity during certain ‘savings sessions’. These time windows fall during peak electricity demand hours.—like mornings and evenings, when people get ready or come home from school and work, watch TV, turn on lights and electric heaters, and cook. Yesterday (January 24), for example, the savings session fell between 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

energy providers Participants in this scheme include British Gas, EDF Energy and E.ON. Only customers who have been invited by one of these providers and who opt-in will benefit from payments. Also, only homes with smart meters are eligible. Payments vary, but can be around £4 ($10) per kilowatt-hour of energy saved, compared to average household usage.

So if people make an effort to use less electricity than they normally use at the time, avoiding the the use of energy-intensive washing machines, for example, is likely to get a reduced bill or credit on your account.

like the uk‘s National Grid is trying to save energy

National Network tried the scheme with the energy provider Octopus Energy in February last year, and in November 2022 launched a “Demand Flexibility Service”, which allows a list of providers to incentivize their customers to reduce electricity consumption. How providers do this is up to them, whether it be emphasizing the financial benefits or pointing out that reducing peak demand can be good for the environment. “Coal power plants are heating up once again to deliver additional power, should it be needed to balance the grid tonight,” an Octopus Energy email to this Octopus customer journalist said. “That means any electricity you save tonight directly reduces the need for dirty coal.”

A study 2021 of a similar judgment in California found that financial incentives, unlike environmental messaging, for example, were the most effective way to change customer energy use. EITHERother US statesY other european countries, also use demand response schemes in various ways. In the UK, power is cheapest at off-peak times, so For a long time, customers have been able to change some of their usage, for example, by setting a dishwasher to run in the middle of the night. But the deployment of smart meters in recent years has made it possible for customers to participate even more actively.

The two UK pilots outline this winter are money and meeting renewable energy targets. The UK’s electricity, like that of many countries, comes from a variety of sources, including gas, wind and nuclear power stations. The country has been trying to gradually reduce the use of coal and other non-renewables, but with wind and solar available intermittently, the National Grid has to turn to “baseline” providers such as coal plants to meet the maximum demand. Meanwhile, customers have seen their energy bills skyrocket this winter for a variety of reasonsincluding the Ukraine war that pushed up gas prices.

Turning on on the contrary-latent coal plants it is also a very expensive way to obtain more electricity. But during peak hours, the alternative is a blackout, which would be very dangerous, especially during a cold winter. (It goes without saying that blackouts would also hurt the government politically.) This problem has led to the latest attempt at a solution: reducing demand instead of increasing supply.

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