National Grid in the UK has announced that up to a million households in England, Scotland and Wales will be paid to use less electricity on Monday evening as part of a scheme to avoid blackouts.
The National Grid said its Demand Flexibility Service, which has only been used in tests so far, would run between 17:00 and 18:00 GMT.
Energy consumers who have signed up will get discounts on their bills if they do things like delay using their oven, the National Grid said. Global media agencies have reported that the cold snap has seen energy use rise as more people turn on the heating.
BBC said on Sunday that the National Grid also asked for three coal-fired generators to be put on standby in case electricity supplies ran low, but it has since stood them down.
According to National Grid, the first thing a consumer should do is check whether his supplier is one of the 26 that has signed up to the scheme. “You’ll get a notification that it starts today.”
People in England, Scotland and Wales who have a smart meter are eligible. Customers will receive a discount if they reduce their electricity use between the times set by National Grid.
“On Monday the scheme will run between 17:00 and 18:00 GMT. You can save by doing things like delaying using your washing machine or tumble dryer, or charging your electric vehicle,” the National Grid was quoted
Savings can range from a few pounds to as much as £20 depending on the amount of energy used.
This week’s cold snap is expected to lead to high power demand, while wind power is forecast to be lower than usual, the BBC said.
It is also uncertain whether the UK will be able to import the power it needs via undersea cables from Europe.
But the scheme is only available to homes with smart meters, and the BBC has been contacted by several people who are frustrated that they cannot participate due to not having a smart meter.
According to National Grid’s electricity system operator, more than a million households and businesses have now signed up to take part.
The scheme was introduced last year and is scheduled to run until March. There were initially concerns it would not attract enough interest due to the level of discounts being offered.
But Craig Dyke, head of national control at National Grid ESO, told the BBC that during the nine tests so far, consumers had saved more energy than forecast.
“To us, that tells us that the consumers are engaged,” he said.
On Sunday, National Grid ordered three UK coal plants to begin warming up in case they were needed to generate electricity on Monday.
Power station operator Drax was asked to prepare two coal-fired units and EDF was warming up its West Burton plant.
National Grid – which has now stood the plants down – had said “people should not be worried” by the move and electricity supplies were not at risk.
A similar request to warm up coal plants was made in December last year, although in the event they were not used.
By Bosco Agba