UK public will be urged to turn thermostats down by 2ºC this winter to save energy

The government’s energy campaign aims to cut consumption by 15 per cent

A dusting of snow across Rothwell in Northamptonshire, central England. PA
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The UK public will be urged to turn their thermostats down by 2ºC this winter to save energy in a cost of living crisis.

The government’s energy campaign aims to cut energy consumption by 15 per cent and save British households £400 ($473) a year in bills.

Details will be make public before Christmas by Grant Shapps, according to reports.

In the autumn, the government announced an energy price guarantee, capping the unit price to keep living costs down for households over winter.

The move, which limited the typical annual bill to around £2,500, was to last until April.

The help has since been extended by another 12 months, until April 2023, at a higher cap, meaning average annual energy bills will rise to £3,000.

A senior government source told The Times: “This is a contract with the public where, if you are middle class, the government is helping you this year with £900 off your bills and we will be helping you again next year with £400 off your bills, but after that it’s going to be left up to you.

“Most families can reduce their energy consumption by 15 to 20 per cent by smarter energy usage and insulation — so we need them to take responsibility for that.”

The campaign will encourage people to do things like:

  • Turn off lights when rooms are not in use
  • Set the washing machine to 30ºC
  • Install energy-efficient light bulbs
  • Reduce the flow rate of boilers
  • Turn down radiators not in use
  • Draft-proof windows and doors

The chancellor of the Exchequer, who has announced an extra £6 billion in spending between 2025 to 2028 to improve energy efficiency, wants to reduce Britain’s energy use by 15 per cent by 2030.

A government spokesman said: “Our existing public information campaign, Help for Households, is driving up the public’s awareness of all the support available to help them with the cost of living, including saving money on energy bills.

“We are also investing £6.6bn in total this parliament to improve energy efficiency across the country, with the majority of our support targeting those on low income and vulnerable households.”

A recent trial, which paid people to reduce their energy use during certain hours, managed to provide almost half of the energy savings that National Grid wants from all British households.

Octopus Energy said the average customer who decided to take part had cut their electricity use by around 59 per cent between 5pm and 6pm on Tuesday.

It was the first time that National Grid had run a service which allows households to be paid if they reduce their use during certain hours.

The scheme is designed to reduce the strain on the electricity grid during peak hours when supply struggles to meet demand.

Tuesday was only a test run, but the system could be used to avoid blackouts.

Octopus said its 200,000 participating customers managed to reduce demand by around 108 megawatts (MW) during the hour-long period.

That is the same as a small gas power plant, and more than half of the 200MW savings that National Grid was asking for.

“This demonstrates that if just one other energy company delivered the same as Octopus, consumer demand could have met all National Grid's needs for flexibility,” Octopus said.

“If the programme was scaled up to all electric smart meter customers in Great Britain, the resulting flexible energy load would be over one gigawatt, almost as much as powering up one of the UK's major coal fired power stations (but without the emissions).”

Other suppliers have also signed up, but most did not take part in Tuesday's first run. National Grid said it hopes that more companies will get involved soon.

Although the risk is still small, the chance of Britain facing rolling blackouts is higher this winter than it has been for decades.

National Grid hopes that by having the ability to ask people to reduce use — and to pay them to do so — it can reduce the risk of blackouts.

The grid is forced to power cut parts of the country when demand is too high for supply to keep up with, so if it can reduce demand then they might not be necessary.

Octopus said that the typical bill payer was paid “well over” £1 for the hour, while the top 5 per cent of energy savers received £4.27 on average.

The payments can be used as credit against an energy bill, or taken out as cash.

Alex Schoch, head of flexibility at Octopus, said: “Giving consumers the chance to grab a bargain is a win-win-win: cleaning up the grid, cutting costs and delivering greater energy security.

“Just like the yellow label products priced to clear in a supermarket, it doesn't need everyone to take part, but those who do get cheaper energy for themselves and drive down waste and reduce costs for everyone else, too.

“Octopus are proud to have pioneered this. Our huge investment in technology and customer relationships made this possible and we expect to see other companies follow suit.”

Updated: November 21, 2022, 2:11 PM