Octopus Energy is demanding National Grid ESO stops asking generators to burn coal, and instead uses consumer flexibility as a cheaper, low carbon alternative.

At a cost reported at over £60,000, the nation‘s backbone operator this week asked coal-fired generators to warm up furnaces in case additional power is needed during the current heatwave to run air-conditioning systems.

Over last winter, the NG paid furnace operators up to £395 million to ensure a coal-fired reserve, guarding Britain against cold snaps.

But renewables generator-supplier Octopus says its experience indicates a better, dramatically cheaper route to meet demand. Consumers incentivised to shift loads by a few hours could, if scaled up from the supplier’s recent trials, have achieved the same effect for only £100 million, or a quarter of NG’s bill, the supplier argues.

In new analysis, Octopus extrapolates that as much 2.1GW of consumer-provided flex can be obtained nationwide, if bill-payers are educated and paid to provide it.

The paper analyses results from ‘Saving Sessions,’ Octopus’ own flex scheme. It recruited 700,000-plus Octopus customers with smart meters to take part over last winter.

Together, the customer base shifted 1.9GWh of electricity out of peak times, the equivalent of stopping about 2 million washing machine runs.

Scaling up Octopus’ results to all 17.3 million UK homes with smart meters would shift over 2.1GW of demand enough – argues the supplier –  to supplant coal as a backup source.

The top 5% of ‘Saving Sessions’ participants earned over £40 during the trial.  Around 96% of customers surveyed said they’re willing to participate in repeat schemes.

Thousands of customers chose to donate their earnings from the trials to ‘Octo Assist’, Octopus Energy’s financial hardship fund. Together they donated more than £170,000 to customers struggling with their bills.

Alex Schoch, Octopus’ head of flexibility, commented: We’ve shown the potential of consumer flexibility. Now it’s time to roll it out across the UK and end our reliance on expensive, dirty coal power.

“Over the winter we saw how our future green grid would work. We’ve proven that households can balance the grid and be part of the movement away from fossil fuels.

“We’re still in a cost of living crisis. It’s crazy to pay coal power plants when we could pay hard-pressed customers instead.”

Read Octopus’ white paper here.


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