Get paid to cut your energy use

How to earn bill credit or shopping vouchers by using less electricity

Energy suppliers are relaunching schemes that pay customers to cut their electricity use at peak times this winter, as part of an ongoing 'demand flexibility service' trial by the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO). This guide explains how these initiatives work, who's eligible and how you can sign up. 

What are these energy use-cutting schemes about?

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These schemes are mainly part of a wider initiative by the National Grid ESO, the body responsible for transporting electricity around England, Scotland and Wales and keeping homes and businesses powered. Called the 'demand flexibility service', it aims to balance supply and demand, reduce the need to fire up fossil-fuel plants and, in the worst case scenario, avoid power cuts.

During specified use-cutting events, the ESO will pay participating suppliers and third-party providers a certain amount for each unit (kilowatt hour) of electricity saved by any of their users signed up to the schemes. Suppliers and providers then pass on some or all of this payment to households – we've more details on this in the firm-by-firm tables below.

A trial ran in winter 2022/23, with participating energy suppliers running their own schemes that gave customers rewards for cutting their electricity usage. We surveyed over 3,000 MoneySavers who took part in the trial, and 78% said that they would sign up again – so we put together this guide to give you all the details.

Six energy reward scheme need-to-knows

While the exact details of each supplier's scheme can vary, some elements are common to all of them. Here's what you need to know...

  1. You need a working smart meter

    Your electricity smart meter must be able to send readings to your supplier automatically (in other words, it can't be in 'dumb' mode).

    Plus you'll need to allow your supplier to access your meter readings every half hour – the default is monthly or daily. This is so your provider can verify that you've reduced your usage during the relevant times. 

    You may already have half-hourly readings set up (for example, if you took part in last winter's schemes or you like to keep a close eye on your usage). If not, you can normally do this as part of the registration process when you join a use-cutting scheme. Alternatively, you should be able to enable half-hourly readings in your online energy account or by contacting your supplier.

    Don't have smart meters? See our Smart meters guide for more info on what they are, how they work and whether you should get one.

  2. You'll have to cut your electricity usage at peak times on certain days

    There will be at least 12 use-cutting events before this winter's scheme ends in March 2024.

    The exact dates and times of these events don't get announced very far in advance – this is deliberate, as the National Grid ESO wants to test how responsive and effective the scheme is at short notice.

    That said, events are most likely to take place on weekday evenings at peak times, which tends to be between around 4pm and 7pm. We also know that each of these 12 events will last for one hour.

    Depending on the needs of the grid, there may be more events throughout the winter, which could last longer. For example, there was a 90-minute event between 4.30pm and 6pm on 1 December, which National Grid ESO said was needed to "maintain the buffer of spare capacity" in the network on that day.

    How much do you have to cut your usage by?

    Generally, there isn't a set amount you need to reduce your usage by. Instead, the more electricity you save, the more you earn in rewards.

  3. The amount you could earn varies – but don't expect £100s

    It's difficult to put a precise number on how much you could earn over the course of the winter, as there are several factors at play...

    • Firstly, the amount paid by the National Grid ESO for each event could vary. For the first six use-cutting events, the ESO is paying energy suppliers and third-party providers at least £3 per unit (kilowatt hour) of electricity saved – but this could change in future.

    • Secondly, energy suppliers and third-party providers can choose how much of the ESO payment to pass on to users. Most are passing on at least 75%, with some passing on the full amount.

    • Finally, the number of events taking place will also affect your earnings. And the number of events will depend on external factors such as the weather, how much pressure there is on the grid, and any supply issues.

    One supplier, EDF, has published the latest statistics on its scheme, which shows customers who have participated in all nine events so far have earned on average £12.56, with the top earner making a massive £228.

    In our survey of over 3,000 people who took part in last winter's schemes, most (59%) told us they earned between £5 and £20 in total, with just 16% earning more than £20.

    Another supplier, Utilita, says it expects users to earn an average of £31.75 this winter – this strikes us as a more realistic figure, based on what MoneySavers have reported.

  4. You'll need to opt in to each use-cutting event separately

    This is key. After joining a scheme, you'll be notified about individual events as they come up, and you'll need to opt in to each one separately. If you don't, you won't earn any rewards – even if you reduce your electricity consumption during that period.

    You'll normally be notified of the events by email, text message or smartphone app notification (depending on the provider you're with).

  5. On prepay? Your choice of scheme is more limited

    Most energy supplier schemes are unfortunately not available if you're on a prepayment (pay-as-you-go) electricity meter.

    However, the schemes from Good Energy, Scottish Power and Utilita are open to their prepay customers. In addition, a number of third-party apps let prepay users take part, regardless of which supplier they're with.

  6. Don't sign up to more than one use-cutting scheme at the same time

    While you can only sign up direct with one energy supplier, it is possible to sign up to multiple third-party providers via the apps below. And while it may be tempting to try to maximise your rewards by signing up with more than one, this is against the National Grid ESO's rules, which limit you to one scheme per household.

    Sign up to multiple schemes and you risk being cut off from all of them – so it's best to stick to one.

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Ready to get started? First check if your energy supplier is taking part

Going via your energy firm is usually the easiest way to take part in a use-cutting scheme – you may already have an invite from your supplier in your inbox.

Major suppliers offering incentives for cutting usage this winter

 This
Supplier Scheme details
British Gas.

British Gas currently has two active schemes – you can take part in both.

1. British Gas 'PeakSave Winter' – linked to National Grid ESO
 

- How much is it paying? 100% of what it gets from National Grid ESO – currently £3 per unit (kilowatt hour, or kWh) saved, and at least £1 per event.

- How are rewards paid? As credit on your bill.

- Can smart prepay customers take part? Not currently (but may be able to in future).
- How do you join? Register online.


2. British Gas 'PeakSave Sundays' – not linked to National Grid ESO

Here, you can get 50% off each unit of electricity you use between 11am and 4pm on Sundays. Your normal tariff applies outside the discount period. Unlike PeakSave Winter, you don't need to join each Sunday event individually to save. For full info, see our PeakSave Sundays MSE News story. The scheme has been extended until 8 September 2024.

E.on Next.

E.on Next 'Power Switch'

 

- How much is it paying? 100% of what it gets from National Grid ESO – currently £3 per unit (kilowatt hour, or kWh) saved.

- How are rewards paid? As credit on your bill.

- Can smart prepay customers take part? Yes.

- How do you join? By following the link in your invitation email.

EDF Energy.

EDF 'Beat the Peak'

- How much is it paying? 100% of National Grid ESO incentive for the first six events – currently £3 per unit (kWh) saved. It hasn't yet confirmed what it will pay for further events.

- How are rewards paid? As bill credit.

- Can smart prepay customers take part? Yes.

- How do you join? By following the link in your invitation email.

Good Energy

Good Energy 'Power Pause'
 

- How much is it paying? 85% of National Grid ESO incentive – currently £2.55 per unit (kWh) saved.

- How are rewards paid? As bill credit (or meter credit if you're on prepay).

- Can smart prepay customers take part? Yes.

- How do you join? By following the link in your invitation email once the scheme launches later this month.

Octopus Energy. Octopus Energy 'Octoplus'

- How much is it paying? At least 75% of National Grid ESO incentive for the initial 12 events – likely around £2.25 per unit (kWh) saved. The amount could vary for other events; some of the difference will also be paid back to Octoplus members in the form of "additional prize draws, streak bonuses and accelerators".
- How are rewards paid? As points that you can redeem for bill credit or a National Trust day pass for two. You can also get Odeon cinema tickets (2 for £10) or a free hot drink from Greggs every week, just for being part of the scheme (no points required to be redeemed).
- Can smart prepay customers take part? No.
- How do you join? Online or via the free Octopus app on iOS or Android.

Outfox the market
 

- How much is it paying? 100% of National Grid ESO incentive – currently £3 per unit (kWh) saved.

- How are rewards paid? As bill credit.

- Can smart prepay customers take part? No.

- How do you join? By following the link in your invitation email.

Ovo Energy.

Ovo currently has two active schemes – you can take part in both.

1. Ovo 'Power Move Plus' – linked to National Grid ESO

- How much is it paying? 100% of National Grid ESO incentive – currently £3 per unit (kWh) saved.

- How are rewards paid? As bill credit.

- Can smart prepay customers take part? No.

- How do you join? By following the link in your invitation email.

 

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

 

Power Move is Ovo's year-round scheme, which lets you earn money off your bill by lowering your average electricity use during peak hours. See our Ovo Power Move MSE News story for full info.

Scottish Power.

Scottish Power 'Power Saver'

 

- How much is it paying? Up to 90% of National Grid ESO incentive – currently around £2.70 per unit (kWh) saved.

- How are rewards paid? As points that you can put towards a voucher for retailers such as Amazon, Asda, Costa and Tesco.

- Can smart prepay customers take part? Yes.

- How do you join? By following the link in your invitation email.

Shell Energy.

Shell Energy 'Smart Flex'

- How much is it paying?
 It's not exactly. Instead, after each event you'll get entered into a prize draw for the chance to win a £20 gift card to spend at Amazon, Just Eat, M&S or Sainsbury's (the more energy you save, the more entries you get). The firm says it won't be making any money off the scheme and that the total prize pool will be at least £70,000.

- Can smart prepay customers take part? No.

- How do you join? By following the link in your invitation email.

Utilita.

Utilita 'Power Payback' – prepay users only

 

- How much is it paying? At least 75% of National Grid ESO incentive – likely around £2.25 per unit (kWh) saved.

- How are rewards paid? As credit to your meter.

- Can smart prepay customers take part? Yes – this scheme is available to prepay customers exclusively.

- How do you join? By following the link in your invitation email.

Can't or don't want to join your supplier's scheme? There is an alternative

If you haven't been invited to your supplier's scheme, or it doesn't offer a good one, there's a range of third-party smartphone apps you can use instead. These connect to your smart meter, get the money from the National Grid ESO, and pass some or all of it on to you.

We've less feedback on these, but they could be a good option for some – and you can use them regardless of which energy supplier you're with.

Third-party smartphone apps offering incentives for cutting usage this winter

App & how to get it Scheme details

 

Equiwatt

Download free on iOS or Android

- How much is it paying? At least 90% of what it gets from National Grid ESO – likely around £2.70 per unit (kWh) saved.

- How are rewards paid? As points you can put towards a voucher for retailers such as Amazon, Costa and Tesco (within 30 days of each event). Users are also entered into monthly prize draws to win bonus points.

- Can prepay customers take part? Yes.

- Other app features: Track your energy usage and take part in year-round 'equivents' where you can win rewards for cutting down your electricity usage during peak times.



Hugo Energy
 

Download free on iOS or Android

- How much is it paying? At least 80% of National Grid ESO incentive – likely around £2.40 per unit (kWh) saved.

- How are rewards paid? By PayPal at the end of the scheme.

- Can prepay customers take part? Yes.

- Other app features: Track your energy usage, get alerts to help you achieve your consumption goals and find green energy tariffs.


 

Ivie

Download free on iOS or Android

- How much is it paying? It's not exactly. Instead, you earn points which you can redeem for entries into various prize draws (such as a weekly raffle for a £25 Amazon voucher or monthly prizes worth up to £1,000). The firm says it aims to invest 85% of the amount paid by the National Grid ESO into the value of the prizes offered.

- Can prepay customers take part? Yes.

- Other app features: Track your energy usage and get personalised energy-saving tips, reports and challenges.


 

Loop Energy
 

Download free on iOS or Android

- How much is it paying? For the initial six events this winter, it expects to pay around £2.50 per unit (kWh) saved. The exact amount could vary for other events, though it should be at least 80% of what Loop gets from National Grid ESO.

- How are rewards paid? Through gift cards at the end of the scheme (by May 2024). We're checking what retailers are available and will update this when we know more.

- Can prepay customers take part? Yes.

- Other app features: Track your energy usage, calculate your carbon emissions and see how much you could save with solar panels.


 

uSwitch
('uTrack')
 

Download free on iOS or Android

- How much is it paying? 100% of National Grid ESO incentive – currently £3 per unit (kWh) saved.

- How are rewards paid? As a one-off payment when the scheme ends on 31 March 2024. The app will request your bank details to make a bank transfer – you will have one month to provide these or your earnings may be donated to charity.

- Can prepay customers take part? Yes.

- Other app features: Track your energy usage, check how energy efficient your home is and compare broadband and mobile deals. 

 

Users who connect their smart meter to the app for the first time can get a £10 bonus if you download the Uswitch app and link it to your smart meter by 31 December, and then join in one session of ‘Utrack Money Back’ before 31 January 2024. Read the full T&Cs.

Quick questions

  • How do the apps make money?

    In a number of different ways. Firstly, most take a small cut of the payments from National Grid ESO to cover their costs (the exception is uSwitch, which is passing on the full amount to users).

    Beyond that, they also tend to offer additional products and services to consumers and businesses – for example, Equiwatt powers Scottish Power's demand flexibility scheme, Hugo offers 'carbon offsetting', Ivie sells a smart meter in-home display, Loop partners with solar panel installers, and uSwitch has its price comparison services.

    You don't have to buy or use any of these additional products or services to take part in the use-cutting schemes – but be aware they may be offered to you while using the apps.

  • Is it safe to share my personal data with these apps?

    It should be – like all other companies handling personal data, the firms behind these apps must comply with the UK's stringent data protection laws. As part of this, they all have detailed privacy policies on their websites about their use of personal data.

    However, we have no way of verifying that the apps are doing what they say they're doing in terms of keeping your data secure, so we can't vouch for them – ultimately it comes down to how much you trust each one.

  • What else should I consider before using a third-party app?

    Compared with the supplier schemes above, you have less protection if something goes wrong. That's because energy suppliers are tightly regulated, and you have the right to escalate complaints to the free, independent Energy Ombudsman.

    By contrast, the complaints process for each app varies, and you may not have the right to escalate your complaint to an ombudsman or alternative dispute resolution service.

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