The energy crisis has put extraordinary pressure on household budgets as the price of gas has soared this year on the back of the war in Ukraine.

As a result, the Government has been moved to take steps to soften this blow for families who might otherwise face difficult spending choices.

Among help already in place is the Energy Price Guarantee which is designed to keep average household bills around £2,500 per year this winter, with a cap on the unit costs of the energy each home uses.

Plus, families will also be receiving a £400 rebate through their direct debits, paid monthly. There is also more targeted help for pensioners and those on benefits.

But another scheme is being launched that could pay households to use less energy still.

National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) is launching a scheme which would pay households with a smart meter to use less energy, by for example shutting off appliances such as tumble dryers and washing machines, at peak hours.

The National Grid ESO is one of the operators of the energy network infrastructure in the UK. It works with suppliers such as British Gas, which administer the process of providing energy into homes.

Why is this happening?

The issue the UK is facing is worse than just high prices at the moment. Worst-case scenario planning has the UK potentially facing blackouts in January and February because the energy network simply doesn’t have enough fuel to power everyone’s homes and businesses.

Plans are in place to implement a system of rolling timed blackouts, affecting different homes around the country at certain times.

But much of the jeopardy comes because people tend to use energy in their homes at similar times, particularly in winter. Think – coming home from work in January, putting on the heating and washing your clothes. We all tend to do similar activities at the same time.

Energy payment scheme explained

The National Grid ESO trialled the scheme with customers of energy firm Octopus who had a smart meter earlier this year. This trial is now being rolled out nationally between November and March.

The scheme operates through whoever your energy provider is at home, but not all suppliers will necessarily sign up. If yours does, and you have a smart meter, they will contact you with the details. You’ll get notice 24 hours ahead that if you reduce usage between peak hours, you’ll get a rebate on your energy bills.

The plan would be for any household with a smart meter that avoids using energy-intensive appliances at peak times (between around 4pm and 9pm) will get paid around £3 for every kilowatt hour (kWh) they don’t use compared to an average.

Reports estimate that some households could earn as much as £10 a day for avoiding peak times. There are currently just 12 test days planned between now and March for the scheme, which means participating households could get up to £120 back.

Customers of some providers already get discounts on bills if they use electricity late at night instead of peak times, such as Octopus’s Economy 7 tariff.

Other providers such as Ovo already have a trial scheme in place to ask customers to cut their consumption. Those that manage to lower their usage to the firm’s threshold will get up to £100 for their efforts.

National Grid has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the scheme but it’s up to energy suppliers to administer, so keep an eye out for further details from yours.

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