Energy Saving Days to Prevent Winter Blackouts

A cross fade of an electricity meter and an electricity pylon
Author: Samuel Beckingham
Updated: Jun 21, 2023
3 minutes read

Similar to last year, households will be offered discounts for using less electricity at peak times during winter in an effort to reduce the chance of blackouts happening. While National Grid has not expressed concern over its capacity to produce sufficient energy over winter, it believes it would still be in the best interest to offer energy savings days again.

The war in Ukraine has posed a significant risk to the supply of gas throughout Europe, which causes doubt about security over the winter. If any shortage were to come, January would be the most affected month, but contingencies are always in place to prevent blackouts. Making use of energy savings days is just one of the ways in which households can help.

National Grid has generated estimates based on normal supply conditions without any further disruptions. Steps have been taken to minimise the impact on households as the gap in supply and demand has increased to 4.8 gigawatts. Back-up generators are always on call in case the grid is unable to keep up with demand, but these weren’t made use of last time. In terms of coal power stations, these have reduced from a total of 5 reserves to 2.

When it comes to electricity production, the UK is reliant on its gas fired power stations, which produce more than 40% of its electricity. Imports are also required to maintain demand. In terms of low carbon sources, the UK Government website states that over 40% of electricity was produced by renewables throughout 2022. Now the Demand Flexibility Service will be reintroduced over winter to help decrease energy bills as well as demand at peak times.

The catch, as always, is that only households with smart meters are able to participate, which equated to 14 million households across England, Scotland and Wales in 2022. Last year, shifting demand from peak times for a one hour period saved enough energy to power 10 million homes. In terms of rebates, however, it’s not known how much each household received. More importantly, any household that didn’t reduce their consumption was not penalised.

It was up to energy suppliers how their customers received their discounts. This could have been in the form of reduced bills, rebates or a cash offer. Upon analysing usage from last winter, the south and east of England were the areas that reduced their usage the most. In preparation for winter this year, energy suppliers are being consulted to make sure the service is improved upon.

When it comes to energy security and ensuring disruption is minimised, it’s important that everything is done to mitigate the negative effects. If households that are able to participate can lessen demand during peak times, the grid can keep up and make sure that no area of the UK has to be plunged into darkness. Worst case scenarios can be avoided if everyone pitches in. This could mean increasing the time frame for reduced energy consumption, potentially lasting 3–4 hours.