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Relying on wind power means Britons must get used to cutting energy use, says National Grid

A view of an onshore Wind Turbine located on the mountain to on Markham Common with Snow on the Brecon Beacons in the backgroun on December 07, 2022 in Markham - Huw Fairclough/Getty Images Europe
A view of an onshore Wind Turbine located on the mountain to on Markham Common with Snow on the Brecon Beacons in the backgroun on December 07, 2022 in Markham - Huw Fairclough/Getty Images Europe

Households will be paid to cut their electricity use at certain times more often in future as Britain relies on wind power as part of the push to net zero, National Grid has signalled.

Craig Dyke, head of national control at the electricity system operator, said it “strongly believes” in consumers becoming more flexible about when they use electricity as the energy system is overhauled.

It comes as households are paid to reduce electricity usage between 5pm and 6pm tonight as National Grid deploys its new scheme to help avert blackouts for the first time outside of testing.

Asked if similar schemes could become a “feature of British life” and be used regularly, Mr Dyke told the BBC: “It’s something we strongly believe in.

“As we take that step whereby people are far more engaged in the energy they use, and as we drive towards that net zero position with people moving to electric vehicles and taking up heat pumps, for example, consumer engagement around this is key.

“It provides that additional flexibility as well - not just for the system, but for all consumers themselves.

“So we see this as a growing market, we see this as a world-leading step into this space.”

The push to net zero means that electricity demand will rise as households switch to electric cars and heat pumps.

Meanwhile, more electricity is coming from wind turbines and solar plants, which are intermittent.

This makes power supplies more complicated to manage compared to the historic system dominated by large coal-fired and gas-fired power plants which can easily adapt to demand.

With less control over electricity supplies, National Grid hopes therefore to have more control over electricity demand.

This means greater efforts to incentivise households to use electricity at different times if needed to help balance supply and demand.

One way of doing this is through time-of-use tariffs which enable customers to take advantage of times when electricity is abundant and cheap, such as charging the car during a windy period overnight.

Other methods include schemes such as National Grid’s new “demand flexibility service”, which is being deployed outside of testing for the first time this evening.

Under the scheme, households who have signed up via their supplier are offered payments to use less electricity at times requested by National Grid.

This could mean, for example, avoiding running the washing machine or electric car at teatime when demand is high.

This evening, households will be paid to use less electricity between 5pm and 6pm. The cold snap means higher demand for electricity and lower wind.

As of around 9am, wind was supplying about 14pc of Britain’s electricity, with 55.2pc coming from gas-fired plants and 2.2pc from coal.

Mr Dyke added this morning: “We have seen since the end of last week and moving into this week a sustained period of high pressure over the UK meaning that supply margins are expected to be tighter than normal this evening.

“This does not mean electricity supplies are at risk and people should not be worried. “[...] We issued the demand flexibility service yesterday to ensure we can get through the evening peak and ensure everyone gets the electricity they need.”