Close shot of white washing machine

Britons could be rewarded for turning off appliances to help with energy crisis

Image credit: Foto 25217618 © Antares614 | Dreamstime.com

In order to reduce the risk of winter blackouts, UK energy firms are considering rewarding consumers who turn off high-energy appliances.

The National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) is said to be preparing to announce a scheme in which households with smart meters could be paid for turning off high-energy appliances such as washing machines during peak times, the Sunday Times has reported. 

The initiative is expected to attempt to ease the burden of rising energy costs on UK households, as experts predict electricity costs could rise by as much as £6,000 per year for the average family from next April. 

ESO is reportedly in the process of applying for Ofgem approval of the programme, which would allow households that minimise the use of appliances such as tumble dryers, dishwashers and games consoles during the peak hours of 5pm and 8pm to save up to £6 per kWh. According to The Sunday Times, the company hopes to open the scheme by late October.

“We are developing a new service that will be available for consumers to benefit from across this winter and will be announcing further information soon,” said a National Grid ESO spokesman.

The plans follow a trial with Octopus Energy customers earlier this year, when as little as 20p was paid for every kWh saved. 

Over the last few months, energy prices have continued to rise as a result of the strain on gas supplies caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This saw its capacity reduced to around 20 per cent of what was flowing before, with the situation set to worsen come winter.

According to the latest analysis by consultancy Auxilione, the price cap on UK energy bills is expected to gradually rise by more than £4,000 in the next eight months, reaching £4,799 in January before finally hitting £6,089 in April.

Currently, the cap on energy bills is set at £1,971 for the average household, with Ofgem due to announce the latest price cap on Friday after making the transition to updating the energy price cap quarterly, rather than every six months. 

Speaking on BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show, the country's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the UK faces a “looming disaster” with rising energy bills.

“This further increase in people’s energy bills can’t be allowed to go ahead because it is making it impossible for people to provide the basics for themselves and their families, but it is also continuing to fuel inflation, which, of course, is causing the problem in the first place," she said. “There is a looming disaster that is already unfolding, but it is going to get worse."

Last week, a University of York study suggested that around 18 million UK families - two-thirds of the country's population - will face fuel poverty as a consequence of rising energy costs and an inflation rate that has reached a 40-year record high.

The situation led Ofgem director Christine Farnish to resign from her position, citing concerns the regulator is failing to effectively protect struggling households by being unable to strike “the right balance between the interests of consumers and the interests of suppliers”, according to the Times.

In response, a UK government spokesperson said: “We are providing a £400 discount on energy bills this winter and £1,200 of direct support for the most vulnerable households. While no government can control global gas prices, over 22 million households are protected by the price cap which continues to insulate households from even higher prices.”

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the UK could face targeted electricity blackouts over the winter under the government’s “reasonable worst-case scenario”, which could see some industries and even households having their electricity supplies temporarily suspended for several days.

The UK has already delayed the closure of coal plants in order to bolster energy supplies, although ministers were warned in May that millions of UK households could still face blackouts despite these measures. 

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