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How the UK rewards households that assist the national grid in winter

Homes in London, the UK, in winter
A London suburb in winter. Picture: Dreamstime.

The UK’s power grid operator has paid households and businesses £9.3 million so far this winter to shift their power use away from periods when demand and pricing is highest.

The electricity system operator launched a demand flexibility programme in November 2023 as the onset of winter pushed energy use higher, particularly during peak hours — typically early evenings.

The 2.2 million businesses and households that have signed up to participate are asked to reduce power use at relatively short notice, when supply is forecast to be tight.

The combined electricity saved during eight events was enough to power 7.5 million other homes for over an hour, according to the system operator’s calculations.

The programme was first deployed in the winter of 2022, although this time around, the notice period for participating households and businesses was shorter — sometimes less than a day.

More tests will be carried out until the end of March, after which rising temperatures will keep power demand in check.

“The demand flexibility service continues to grow from strength to strength,” said Claire Dykta, the system operator’s director of markets. “Households and businesses up and down the country are demonstrating their continued interest and commitment to electricity flexibility and are reaping the rewards for their participation.”

By curbing electricity use and reducing the grid operator’s reliance on polluting and expensive peaking power plants, the programme lowers greenhouse gas emissions too, a recent study found.

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