Households up and down the UK are searching near and far for ways to lower their energy bills, carbon footprints and still be able to live as comfortably as possible, while often working from home and during a cost of living crisis. Late last year, the National Grid began a trial scheme to try to lower the amount of electricity used by households and save them money.
Partnering up with a number of energy providers, such as British Gas, E.ON and EDF, the ESO Demand Flexibility Service sees millions of customers armed with smart meters participate in a number of tests and live events, during which they have to try and reduce their electricity usage by as much as possible. Customers are informed prior to one of these events taking place - and can refuse to take part if they need to - with providers offering monetary incentives to customers to reward them for their help.
While the scheme began in November 2022, it may be the case that some customers have missed their email invitations to take part or invitations are still incoming, so be sure to check your inboxes in case you missed yours. We explain below what the scheme consists of, what the rules are and what it could mean for the National Grid's future:
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What is the ESO Demand Flexibility Service?
The National Grid ESO stands for 'Electricity System Operator' and this, together with electricity suppliers and aggregators, has launched a new Demand Flexibility Service (DFS) for the winter, which it says will "incentivise consumers and businesses to reduce their power consumption at certain times". Basically, it's a way of reducing demand for the electricity system and rewarding participating customers to 'turn down' when the National Grid needs them to.
According to the National Grid: "If needed, this new service will help the ESO avoid using its emergency responses if electricity supplies are impacted. To ensure that there is a benefit for consumers if supplies are unaffected this winter, the ESO will run a maximum of 12 demonstration tests with each electricity supplier and aggregator between November and March 2023.
"These demonstration tests will have a guaranteed minimum price of £3KWh, meaning that a typical household could save approximately £100 across the maximum 12 demonstration tests. Creating more flexibility on our electricity system is vital for running a clean, green and fair system of the future.
"DFS is a real breakthrough and gives consumers a direct opportunity to participate in flexibility services, with potentially millions of homes participating. It could accelerate flexible energy use by many years and will be watched with much interest by other countries.
"In terms of what it means for our electricity system, if we can reduce demand by rewarding participating customers to turn down when we need them to, it means we might not have to bring on expensive and polluting fossil fuel generators. This saves carbon and also saves all consumers money. And in times of system stress, when margins are tight, it could also help us avoid an emergency response. "
How can you take part in the Demand Flexibility Service?
If you have a smart meter and your energy supplier offers the service, you'll be able to sign up with them. Participating electricity providers (which can be found in the list below) are expected to have contacted eligible customers from late October/November 2022 onwards.
If you have signed up to take part in the scheme, your electricity provider will contact you before a demonstration test or live event and ask if you'd like to participate. Demonstration tests will run for an hour, however live events could run for longer - there are no penalties for not participating once you have signed up or notified your electricity provider that you will take part in a demonstration test or live event, however in order to be eligible to receive an incentive you will have to participate.
Ways to reduce your power consumption during DFS events
Some of the suggestions given by the National Grid ESO for reducing household power consumption, during demonstration tests or live events, include choosing to run power-hungry appliances - like washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, electric showers and immersion heaters - before or after the event. Other advice includes:
- Reducing energy usage, like using a microwave instead of the oven, during the event window
Efficient lightbulbs and small appliances such as modern televisions consume very little electricity and so it is unlikely to be worth adapting usage of these during an ‘event’
Using electrical goods overnight can create increased risk of an incident, so it is advised all consumers follow the guidance offered by organisations such as Electrical Safety First and where possible to avoid using their electrical appliances overnight.
Who is on the current list of approved providers?
You can view the full list of approved providers on the National Grid ESO page here, or you can view more information relating to some of the bigger names below. It is worth noting that households can only take part with only one DFS provider.
British Gas' Peak Save is only available to customers who have been invited by email. If you haven't been invited, then unfortunately you won't be able to take part at the moment, but keep your eyes peeled for future opportunities.
During each session, which will last between 30 minutes and four hours, the aim is to try and use less electricity than you normally would - the target is 30 per cent less. British Gas will do all the calculations through your smart meter and let you know how much you saved.
Perks of this scheme include:
- You could earn £20 towards your bills - the equivalent of six days of free electricity for a UK home with average use. The exact amount will vary but could be as much as £100
- As a special thanks for taking part, whatever you earn, British Gas will double it and, if you only save a little electricity, will make sure you earn at least £1 for every session you save
- You'll also get a better understanding of how you use electricity at home
EDF's 'Beat the Peak' challenge has closed its sign-up function for now. But it has plenty of information on its page on how to save money off of your energy bills and more.
E.ON's 'Energy Shift' has so far seen customers taking part in five Demand Flexibility Service events from the National Grid. According to their data, they have managed to save more than 78MWh of electricity, which is the equivalent of 184 years worth of powering a 50w TV.
E.ON Next customers will be contacted if they are eligible to take part, so keep an eye on your inbox. You will not be able to join if you have a Capacity Market contract or take part in any balancing mechanisms.
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