UK drops blackout prevention plan for day of England v Wales game

National Grid’s Demand Flexibility Service was due to be called into action for the first time during World Cup clash

It is feared people in Britain could use as much electricity as is available during the Wales v England World Cup match on Tuesday evening. Bloomberg
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National Grid has postponed the launch of a scheme to pay UK households to reduce their electricity, which was due to begin on Tuesday evening - as England face Wales in the World Cup.

Under the plan, households in Britain may be paid to cut their electricity usage to reduce the risk of blackouts, as part of a winter emergency plan.

It would have represented the first run of the National Grid’s Demand Flexibility Service to help take the strain off the country’s energy system.

But it was expected to have taken place at a time of peak demand — when the two home nations play each other in Qatar in a 7pm kick off.

National Grid Electricity System Operator on Monday said it was considering activating its Demand Flexibility Service for the first time to help reduce the risk of power cuts on Tuesday, having previously run two tests of the programme. But the move was rejected shortly after the initial announcement.

The scheme started this month and was set up to pay households and businesses to reduce electricity usage. This can help take strain off the system when supply is tight, as it was expected to be on Tuesday.

Forecasters project a large drop in the amount of power Britain will be able to import from France, meaning the volume of electricity available for households and businesses compared to what they use during peak times will be tight, raising the risk of blackouts.

They warned that margins would be tight in Britain and France on Monday evening, meaning each would need to import power from abroad.

France has been facing months of problems with its nuclear power plants, which generate around three-quarters of the country's electricity.

More than half of the nuclear reactors run by state energy company EDF have closed due to maintenance and technical issues.

"Even though wind is coming back for tomorrow evening's peak, slow return of nukes in France plus lower temperatures may mean that there is a reduction in available imports across the interconnectors," consultancy EnergyAppSys said.

During both Demand Flexibility Service tests, businesses and households banded together to reduce demand by a small but significant amount.

Octopus Energy has been the most active energy supplier in the Demand Flexibility Service so far.

Data showed its customers had helped reduce demand by more than 100 megawatts during each test.

The average customer who decided to take part had cut their electricity use by about 59 per cent.

Octopus said some of its customers had earned more than £4 during the hour-long sessions and the average saving was "well over £1".

The scheme is administered by energy suppliers.

Households have to register their interest in taking part in advance. They will then receive a text or other message saying the programme will run later in the day.

If they use less electricity than they normally do during the allotted hours they will be paid for the savings. The customers will not be punished Only a handful of suppliers are taking part but National Grid hopes participation will increase in the weeks ahead.

Updated: November 28, 2022, 4:12 PM