Would you be switched on with this scheme?

Solar power cells laid out in a field

Octopus Energy recently launched an initiative that could help relieve pressure on the National Grid.

Recruiting around 135 families to take part, the energy firm encourage those on the scheme to charge their devices and electric cars during the early hours, when rates are off peak and demand is much lower, in a bid to spread the demand for electricity over a greater period of time. Participants reduce their overall electricity costs—depending on how much energy they manage to save and the price of their electricity when they plug into the grid. Electricity consumed during the night and the early hours of the morning, for example, is much cheaper than it is at peak points during the day.

The scheme involves Octopus Energy determining a two-hour optimum ‘charging/usage’ window for the following day; with this information, participating households can choose whether to opt in to the energy-saving initiative during the next day or not. They then schedule/set their appliances and chargers accordingly, to begin/kick in when the optimum window opens.

Smart meters used in conjunction with the scheme assign a price for the energy units participants consume, based on the time of day and the usage of other people at that time. Having a cuppa at teatime could cost them more than when they’re switching on the kettle to make their early morning brew, for example, despite the kettle consuming the same amount of energy both times.

Power windmills aerial shot

If the scheme is successful, Octopus Energy will encourage more people to get on board. Not only will this help the National Grid by spreading households’ usage across the entire 24 hours, it could also help low-income families meet their energy bills, following the significant price rises the industry has recently seen.

The technology boom of the eighties continued during the following decades; the electricity consumption of the average household has greatly increased as a result, as we’ve come to rely more and more on mobile devices and entertainment systems. Now that electric cars are being touted as the answer to the emissions problem and the green solution we should all be opting for, our reliance on electricity will certainly not be going down.

There are lots of green energies around, such as solar power, plant biomass, wind farms and hydro power, but even collectively, they’re not yet on a large enough scale to take away the pressure the National Grid experiences when we’re all plugged in. That said, renewable energies are increasing year on year; in 2021 they generated 43% of the UK’s energy. The storage of renewable energy is what’s difficult, and despite being prone to strong winds as an island, the UK can’t always harness the wind as it would like—on some days, there’s no wind to even harness. It’s issues like this, and the storage of green energy, that stops us being as reliant on renewables as we’d like.

electric car charger

In terms of electric car charging, there’s the opportunity for some electric vehicle owners to sell their car battery’s surplus energy back to the grid—the vehicles acting as little storage containers in their own right. The people working for the National Grid constantly monitor usage across the country, and they’re always looking for opportunities to spread the output and relieve strain on the grid. The Octopus Energy initiative, therefore, looks a promising solution that could be adopted by all the other energy companies.