Well, it was one hell of a turn-off.
According to Octopus energy, more than 400,000 of its customers took part in this week’s National Grid scheme to reward customers to cut electricity use.
Between them, the company says they saved the equivalent of Bristol’s total electricity demand in the hour the scheme ran for on Monday.
But as the grid moves fast towards net zero, it will take a lot more than a few hundred thousand willing customers to manage the peaks and troughs in electricity supply.
The government wants wind power capacity to double in the next decade and if we don’t radically change the way we manage demand and supply the extremes the National Grid currently has to manage will double too.
We have the technology to do this: Batteries on the grid to store excess power on windy days; millions of electric cars connected to people’s homes can do the same job too; insulated homes warmed with electric heat pumps could automatically switch off when the grid demand is high; attractive tariffs for much cheaper electricity when there’s excess supply would incentivise customers.
But while we’re doing pretty well at building wind turbines – we’re a long way from managing demand.
Electric cars are still too expensive for most. So are heat pumps, and getting planning permission to install one can be impossible for some.
Currently, the energy market doesn’t give any incentive for customers to switch to these technologies. And while COVID didn’t help, energy companies have been slow to roll out a key bit of kit we need: only 50% of homes have a smart meter.
The government is working on electricity market reform and running trials of things like two-way smart meters for customers to “sell” electricity in their vehicle batteries back to the grid.
But there’s a huge amount of detail that still needs to be worked out, and little time to do it in. One end of the electricity system is rushing ahead in the switch to renewables, while the other end is struggling to catch up.