Octopus Energy is calling on National Grid ESO to stop burning coal to support the grid. Picture credit: Rose Galloway, Unsplash.

Octopus Energy calls on National Grid to stop burning coal to support grid

Octopus Energy is calling on National Grid ESO to stop burning coal to support the grid and instead use consumer flexibility as a permanent, low carbon and cost-effective backup source of energy. 

The warning comes as National Grid ESO this week asked coal-fired power stations to warm up in case additional power supply was needed during the current heatwave, paying them over £60,000 for the backup service. 

However, a new White Paper by Octopus Energy shows there is a dramatically cheaper and cleaner alternative – consumer flexibility. 

Over the course of last winter, National Grid ESO paid up to £395m for keeping coal power plants on standby. If consumer flexibility had been deployed at full scale, it would have cost a quarter of that (roughly £100m) for the same benefit to the grid, and with considerably lower emissions, according to the report.

Alex Schoch, head of flexibility at Octopus Energy, said: “We’ve shown the potential of consumer flexibility - it’s now time to roll this out across the UK and end our reliance on expensive and dirty coal power plants once and for all.

“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 and it’s crazy to pay coal power plants when we could pay hard-pressed customers instead.” 

The White Paper analysed the results of Octopus’ consumer flexibility scheme – ‘Saving Sessions’ – which saw over 700,000 Octopus customers with smart meters take part over the course of last winter. 

Together, they shifted around 1.9GWh of electricity out of peak times, the equivalent of stopping about two million washing machine runs. 

Scaling up Octopus' results to all 17.3 million UK homes with smart meters would unlock over 2.1GW of demand shift – enough to entirely replace coal as a backup source. 

The top 5% of Saving Sessions participants earned over £40 over winter and 96% of customers surveyed said they are interested in participating in the scheme again.

Thousands of customers chose to donate their earnings to Octopus Energy’s financial hardship fund, Octo Assist, together donating more than £170,000 to customers who are struggling with their bills. 

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