UK households and businesses cut winter electricity use enough to power 10 million homes

Households and businesses in Britain saved enough electricity over the winter to power 10 million homes by reducing their energy use during peak demand hours to help the country avoid blackouts.

Around 1.6 million households and businesses received payments to help reduce pressure on the National Grid during the winter months as part of a demand flexibility scheme run by their electricity system operator (ESO).

Energy users were asked some 22 times to reschedule their energy use to avoid peak demand hours, for example, running dishwashers or dryers at night, saving more than 3,300 megawatt-hours of electricity.

The energy savings were equivalent to producing electricity from the Keadby Gas Power Plant for 4.5 hours, or three hours of generating from the Sizewell B Nuclear Power Plant.

In return, households and small businesses received millions of pounds worth of payments through their suppliers. Octopus Energy said it paid out a total of £5.3m to customers who signed up to participate. British Gas confirmed that it made a total of £1.8 million in payments to customers on behalf of ESO.

Claire Dykta, ESO’s director of markets, said the scheme successfully demonstrated “the interest of UK consumers and businesses in playing a more active role in balancing our electricity needs.”

She said: “We are now working with the industry and consumers to establish how this world-leading service can grow ever larger and support the continued evolution of UK consumer flexibility.” ESO is expected to run the scheme again next winter.

Countries across Europe took steps to cut their energy consumption last winter after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent market prices soaring and raised fears over whether there would be enough gas imports to meet demand.

Industry data has shown Britain used 5% less gas in the first quarter of this year compared to the same months last year, partly due to lower electricity demand overall and the growing fleet of wind farms.

Wind turbines generated more electricity than gas-fired power stations for the first time in the first three months of this year, according to an analysis of ESO data by Imperial College London.

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The quarterly report, commissioned by Drax, showed that electricity demand fell 4% in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same period last year. At the same time, wind power generation rose 3% to account for 32.4% of Britain’s total electricity mix, while gas-fired power accounted for 31.7%.

Dr Iain Staffell from Imperial College London, and lead author of the report, said: “There are still many hurdles to achieving a completely fossil fuel-free grid, but turning off gas for the first time is a real milestone and shows what can be done.” achieve when governments create a good environment for investors in clean technology”.

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