Households save up to £4.27 in an hour during test to help avoid blackouts

Octopus Energy customers alone managed to provide nearly half of the energy savings that National Grid wants from all British households as the company ran the first ever pay to save trial earlier this week.

The company said that its average customer who decided to take part had slashed their electricity use by around 59% between 5pm and 6pm on Tuesday.

It was the first time that National Grid had run a service which allows households to be paid if they reduce their use during certain hours.

The scheme is designed to reduce the strain on the electricity grid during peak hours when supply struggles to keep up with supply.

Tuesday was only a test run, but the system could in future be used to avoid blackouts.

Octopus said that its 200,000 participating customers managed to reduce demand by around 108 megawatts (MW) during the hour-long period.

That is the same as a small gas power plant, and more than half of the 200 MW savings that National Grid was asking for.

“This demonstrates that if just one other energy company delivered the same as Octopus, consumer demand could have met all National Grid’s needs for flexibility,” Octopus said.

“If the programme was scaled up to all electric smart meter customers in Great Britain, the resulting flexible energy load would be over one gigawatt, almost as much as powering up one of the UK’s major coal fired power stations (but without the emissions).”

Other suppliers have also signed up, but most did not take part in Tuesday’s first run. National Grid hopes that more companies will get involved soon.

Although the risk is still small, the chance of Britain facing rolling blackouts is higher this winter than it has been for decades.

National Grid hopes that by having the ability to ask people to reduce usage – and to pay them to do so – it can reduce the risk of blackouts happening.

The grid is forced to black out parts of the country when demand is too high for supply to keep up with – so if it can reduce demand then they might not be necessary.

Octopus said that the typical bill payer was paid “well over” £1 for the hour, while the top 5% of energy savers got £4.27 on average.

The payments can be used as credit against an energy bill, or taken out as cash.

Alex Schoch, head of flexibility at Octopus, said: “Giving consumers the chance to grab a bargain is a win-win-win: cleaning up the grid, cutting costs and delivering greater energy security.

“Just like the yellow label products priced to clear in a supermarket, it doesn’t need everyone to take part, but those who do get cheaper energy for themselves and drive down waste and reduce costs for everyone else too.

“Octopus are proud to have pioneered this. Our huge investment in technology and customer relationships made this possible and we expect to see other companies follow suit.”