Energy firm will pay customers who use electricity at the cheapest times of the day
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A small energy supplier is offering to pay customers to use energy when demand is low and electricity is at its cheapest.
Octopus Energy’s new Agile tariff tracks wholesale electricity prices, which fall when more electricity is generated than consumed – sometimes below zero, when suppliers are paid to take energy off the grid.
Octopus promises to pass these “negative prices” on to consumers, effectively paying them to use energy during times of over-supply, it said. Customers will be alerted to this “plunge pricing” via text message, email or on the app.
Customers could take advantage of the falling prices by setting a timer on their washing machine to run at the cheapest times, or charge an electric vehicle at low-demand times overnight, saving drivers up to £669 per year, the supplier claimed.
While historically big drops in energy prices have occurred overnight as energy consumption drops, with ever increasing amounts of renewable energy available from solar and wind generation, such events are becoming more frequent throughout the day.
When demand exceeds supply and the wholesale price rises, users will be charged the higher price – but this is capped at 35p per kilowatt-hour. The firm said most customers will benefit as the wholesale cost is below the standard price 80pc of the time.
Greg Jackson, founder and chief executive of Octopus Energy, said: “This tariff is groundbreaking. By reflecting the real cost of energy on the grid every half hour, customers can capitalise on times when prices are especially low.
“Indeed, if the wholesale price goes below 0p / kWh, Octopus Agile will actually pay you to take the unwanted energy from the grid. As renewable energy production grows these events are only going to become more frequent.”
Peak hours for electricity use are between 4:00pm and 7:00pm every day of the week, while off-peak times are between 8:00am and 12:00pm, and overnight.
The biggest savings are made by using items such as dishwashers, washing machines and storage heaters in the early hours of the morning. For instance, a washing machine typically uses 1 kWh per cycle. So it would cost 32p to run one at 6:00pm versus 8.8p to set the timer for 3:30am, based on today’s prices.
Customers must have a smart meter to sign up to the tariff, which may put people off. The wholesale pricing model only applies to electricity – gas is charged in the traditional way.
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