Eating by candlelight, 'disco baths' and digital detoxes…. MSE reveals the ways households cut their energy use to earn rewards – and which firms paid the most

As energy firms relaunch the schemes pioneered last winter, which pay electricity users to cut their energy use at peak times, a major new survey by MoneySavingExpert reveals which firms paid customers the most last year, and how people did it. Crucially, despite most saying they earned less than £20 in total for their efforts, the majority WOULD sign up again.

During winter 2022/23, 1.6 million households and businesses took part in schemes that paid them to cut electricity usage at peak times.

The survey, made up of 3,000 people who took part in one of the energy cost-cutting schemes, revealed the following key statistics:

  1. 78% would sign up again next winter. Even among those who earned less than £5 in total, almost six in 10 (59%) said they would sign up again.
  2. 'Not cooking' was the single most common step people took. More than four in five (84%) said they didn't cook during the specified use-cutting periods.
  3. Payouts were modest. One in three (34%) say they earned less than £5 overall, with only 16% getting more than £20 and just 3% earning over £50.
  4. Octopus Energy was the top payer with 21% earning over £20. This contrasts with just 5% at E.on Next, the lowest payer in our survey.

Martin Lewis, founder of, said: "National Grid ESO and energy retailers are playing a clever bit of behavioural economics here to help smooth out the energy demand curve at crucial times. While of course, people always save money when they cut usage, that is a rather nebulous concept. Yet paying people to cut usage is more visceral – people gain, get paid, and feel good that they’re helping out.

"And while it’s great news that the majority were happy with the scheme last year, what’s noticeable is how few got anywhere close to the mooted £100 maximum. So I welcome the scheme returning – as people like it – but it would be good if it were publicised with more clarity over what’s achievable and how people hit higher amounts."

The top 10 things people did to cut their usage

Some 80% of those who took part in at least one event or session said they found it easy to cut their usage during the specified period. Here’s what they did:

The top 10 steps people took to cut their electricity usage: not cooking (84%); washing clothes outside peak times (74%); turning off lights (67%); not charging mobile devices (63%); using dishwasher outside peak times (61%); not watching TV (58%); using tumble dryer outside peak times (53%); unplugging devices from sockets (44%); not using the internet (31%); not showering with an electric shower (31%).

What MoneySavers said about the electricity cost-cutting schemes

What they liked:

  • "For one hour we played games, cards or read books by torch light. It was fun and a good chance to talk and detox from devices. We didn't save much money (£1.25 a session on average) but we gained through the experience."
  • "Even though I didn't earn much, it made us aware of how much we waste by leaving things switched on standby, particularly TVs & games consoles."
  • "I loved it. We made it fun – eating by candlelight, the kids having 'disco baths' (in the dark except for a flashing floating light...)"

What they disliked:

  • "Although these days every penny helps, the rewards did seem pitiful compared to the prices we are paying for energy. In total, over five months, I saved less than 10% of one month's direct debit payment. A very tiny drop in a very deep ocean."
  • "I found the target quite vague. We'd be told "reduce your usage" or "use less than you usually would" but I don't even know what my current benchmark is for my usage."
  • "The rewards for cutting my usage didn't compare to the challenge of cutting – sitting in the dark for an hour on a pre-charged iPad while the internet was off, waiting for the reminder to turn my fridge freezer back on; was not worth 22p."

How much households say they earned in total

The survey revealed that Octopus Energy customers reported the highest average level of earnings as shown below, followed by Ovo Energy and British Gas.

Table: How much households say they earned in total – summary:

Please credit to MoneySavingExpert

Supplier (number of responses)

Earned less than £5

Earned more than £20

Octopus Energy (1,834)



Ovo Energy (98)



British Gas (473)



EDF (75)



E.on Next (626)



All suppliers (3,106)



For full details on how much households say they earned, contact the MSE Press Office for a comprehensive table.

How to take part in a cost-cutting scheme this winter

National Grid ESO is once again running its so-called "demand flexibility service" this winter, with major energy suppliers including British Gas, EDF, Octopus and more on board. The easiest way to do it is usually via households’ existing energy suppliers.

Customers of suppliers that aren’t taking part – or who do not like their supplier’s scheme – can alternatively join through a third-party app, which connects to smart meters directly, bypassing the supplier. Services such as Equiwatt, Hugo, Loop and Utrack (from Uswitch) can track usage in near real-time, offer energy-saving tips and provide access to the ESO's use-cutting events.

For further details and comments, please contact the MSE Press Office.


For further comments and interviews, please contact: 
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Notes to editors

  • MSE's survey ran between 11 and 25 April 2023 and was self-selecting.
  • Between roughly November 2022 to April 2023, 1.6 million households and businesses took part in schemes that paid them to cut electricity usage at peak times as part of a broader initiative from the National Grid ESO.
    Octopus Energy had the largest scheme, with nearly 700,000 of its customers taking part – this is because Octopus let any customer with a working smart meter sign up, while other suppliers limited their schemes to those they'd invited. Two other major suppliers, British Gas and E.on Next, saw 200,000 and 145,000 customers join their respective schemes.
    The schemes were based on tracking usage during specific times of the day, so only those with working smart meters could take part, as smart meters are able to send half-hourly readings to their energy supplier.
    Those taking part were asked to reduce their electricity consumption during certain periods, for example the evening peak between 4pm and 7pm – though the exact times varied depending on each supplier's scheme and the needs of the electricity grid.