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Energy suppliers are paying households up to £100 to cut electricity use at peak times this winter – here's how it works and how to sign up

Electricity pylons in a field with blue sky. Much Hadham. Hertfordshire. UK

Over a million households and businesses have joined energy firm schemes that pay you to cut your usage at peak times, with two official energy cutting events taking place last week. Below we explain how these schemes work, which energy suppliers are offering them and how you can sign up.

The schemes have largely been launched as part of a broader initiative from the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), the body responsible for transporting electricity around England, Scotland, and Wales and keeping homes and businesses powered.

It follows warnings from the operator that this winter could be challenging for energy supplies throughout Europe, though it has stressed blackouts are an unlikely "worst-case scenario".

If you're looking for ways to reduce your electricity (and gas) usage, see our Energy saving tips guide. And if you're struggling to pay your bills, see our Energy bill help guide.

Three key need-to-knows about all of the schemes

Here's a quick summary of the most important things you need to know about the electricity usage initiatives. More detail on each supplier's scheme is in the table below.

  1. Only those with smart meters can take part. As the schemes are based on tracking usage during specific times of the day, only those with smart meters can take part, as smart meters are able to send half-hourly readings to your energy supplier.

  2. You'll be asked to reduce your electricity consumption during certain periods. This is likely to include the evening peak between around 4pm and 7pm – but the exact times will depend on your supplier's scheme and the needs of the electricity grid.

  3. You could earn up to £100 over the course of the winter. National Grid ESO has previously said it expects to pay suppliers the equivalent of £3 per unit (kWh) saved, but suppliers are able to choose whether to pass on the full amount (or pay more). The exact amount you'll get will vary depending on your usage and the number of times you're prompted to cut your usage over the winter. 

Firm-by-firm power scheme details

The table below has everything we know about the schemes that have been announced by each supplier so far.

Major suppliers giving incentives for cutting usage this winter

Supplier Scheme details
British Gas - When it's launching: Launched in December.
- Who can take part: Only those being invited. You must have a smart meter sharing half-hourly data.
- At what times of the day will you need to cut usage? Could be any time, but most likely to be on weekday evenings between 4pm and 9pm. You'll be sent an email in advance of each session. Once notified, you'll need opt in via your email (if you don't opt in to the session, you won't earn a reward).
- By how much will you need to cut usage? At least 30%.
- How much you could earn: Depends on number of events and the amount paid to British Gas by National Grid, but could be around £3 per unit (kWh) of electricity saved. Rewards will be paid as a credit to your bill.
E.on Next - When it's launching: Launched in November.
- Who can take part: Only those with smart meters who are sharing half-hourly data. It's writing to those eligible inviting them to apply.
- At what times of the day will you need to cut usage? Peak times, likely 4pm-7pm.
- By how much? You'll be given a personal target based on your average daily usage. E.on hasn't said what this could be, but social media users have reported target reductions of between 20% to 40%. 
- How much you could earn: Depends on the number of events and the amount paid to E.on by National Grid, but it could be up to £100.
EDF - When it's launching: Launched in December.
- Who can take part: Only those invited. You must also have a smart meter sharing half-hourly data and be opted in to marketing emails from EDF.
- At what times of the day will you need to cut usage? Between 4pm and 9pm.
- By how much? As much as you can.
- How much you could earn: Depends on how much energy you normally use in the specified period and how much of this you can shift. EDF estimates it could be up to £16 per event (based on someone who normally uses an electric shower, a tumble dryer and a washing machine during the peak, but chooses not to).
Octopus Energy - When it's launching: Launched on 1 November. You can sign up online.
- Who can take part: Nearly all of its 1.4m customers with smart meters. A "very small number" whose smart meters aren't properly connected won't be able to join – if this applies to you, contact Octopus for help. It'll try to fix the issue, though it says there are no guarantees.
- At what times of the day will you need to cut usage? You'll be told by email and app notification in advance. It's likely to include the evening peak between around 4pm and 7pm. Once notified, you'll need opt in to each session via your email or the app (if you don't opt in, you won't earn a reward).
- By how much will you need to cut usage? As much as you can. The more electricity you save, the more you'll earn.
- How much you could earn: £36 overall for the average home. But it could be up to £100, depending on your usage and the needs of the electricity grid. Rewards will be paid as 'OctoPoints', which you'll be able to redeem to your energy account as credit in pounds.
Ovo Energy

Ovo has two schemes but those eligible will only be invited to one and you can't switch between them.

1. Ovo 'Shift & Save' – linked to National Grid ESO

- When it's launching: Launched on 8 December.
- Who can take part: 15,000 of its customers with smart meters who were invited.
- At what times of the day will you need to cut usage? You'll be told by email in advance. Likely to be in the evening between 4pm and 7pm, but you may also be prompted to cut usage on a whole specific day. You'll need to opt in to each session via the email (if you don't opt in, you won't earn a reward).
- By how much will you need to cut usage? As much as you can.
- How much you could earn: £50 in total for an average home. Ovo says you'll earn a minimum of £1 per unit (kWh) of electricity saved.

 

2. Ovo 'Power Move' – not linked to National Grid ESO

- When it's launching: Launched on 1 November. You can no longer sign up.
- Who can take part: 7,000 of its customers with smart meters who were invited.
- At what times of the day will you need to cut usage? Between 4pm and 7pm.
- By how much? Depends on your typical usage. To earn the reward, you'll need to use less than 12.5% of your daily total electricity between 4pm and 7pm (Ovo says 19% is the average for its customers). Going from 19% to 12.5% is equivalent to moving three loads of washing per week from peak time to another time of the day, according to Ovo.
- How much you could earn: £20 for each month you meet the target, up to a total of £100 if you meet it for the duration of the trial (1 November 2022 to 31 March 2023). Rewards will be paid directly into your energy account as credit.

Shell Energy

- When it's launching: Launched on 30 January.

- Who can take part: Only those invited. You must also have a working smart meter and be opted in to marketing emails from Shell.

- At what times of the day will you need to cut usage? You'll be told by email in advance. Likely to be between around 4pm to 7pm.

- By how much will you need to cut usage? As much as you can. For every 0.1kWh electricity saved, you'll earn one entry into the monthly prize draw for a shopping voucher and one entry into the final prize draw for a Mini.
- How much you could earn: Shell Energy's scheme doesn't pay cash. Instead, you can get the chance to win a £100 shopping voucher each month and the chance to win a Mini electric car in a final prize draw in April. 

Utilita

- When it's launching: Launched in November. You can no longer sign up.
- Who can take part: 1,020 of its customers with smart meters who were invited.
- At what times of the day will you need to cut usage? You'll be told by text message in advance, but normally between 5.30pm-10pm.
- By how much? As much as you can. The more electricity you save, the more you'll earn.
- How much you could earn: £10 or so over the course of the one-month trial. (Utilita figures show households who cut their usage during the first weekly session were paid an average of £2.45 each.)

Other suppliers may also offer incentives for cutting usage – but details are yet to be announced

National Grid ESO told us it is working with energy firms and industry regulator Ofgem to roll out its scheme more widely.

We asked three other major suppliers whether they'll be taking part – here's what they said:

  • Bulb told us it wouldn't be taking part. However, with Bulb customers being transferred to Octopus, you may be able to take part in the Octopus scheme once that transition happens. Octopus told us it would share more details once the transfer is complete – we'll update this story when we know more.
  • So Energy and Utility Warehouse told us they're not taking part for now, but may do so in the future.

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