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I received this from my energy provider today.

Hi Alex,

I've got a weird challenge for you. It sounds strange, but hear me out.

This weekend, instead of conserving power to save the planet, I want you to SWITCH ON ????

Join our trial, and you'll be paid for every unit of energy you use for 2 hours on Sunday. It’s a 2 hour, all-you-can-eat green electricity buffet.

Choose the time that suits you best – you’ll earn 5p / kWh between 05:00-07:00 or 2p / kWh between 14:00-16:00.

Whichever you choose, it will help protect the UK from blackouts, and make Britain greener.

Click here to join in the Big Switch On

Places are strictly limited — join before midday Saturday May 23rd to get paid for your electricity.

Why is this happening?

This Bank Holiday weekend, unprecedented changes in our national energy use brought on by the Coronavirus outbreak is putting a huge strain on the national energy grid.

The UK's energy grid has to be balanced in real time, matching supply (the energy being generated) with demand (the energy we use). Too much or too little power going into the grid, and the system becomes unstable, which can cause blackouts.

Social distancing measures have led to record low energy demand as businesses and factories shut their doors. This Bank Holiday weekend, the UK's energy demand is set to reach record lows, and with sunny and windy weather on the horizon, there'll be a huge supply of solar and wind power that the UK can't use up.

Right now, the grid is a little like an overstacked shelf, with a shopkeeper loading on more and more tins at a time when no one is taking them back off again. Eventually, the shelf will collapse.

There's two options to address this. The shop can either stop putting tins on the shelves, or, it could do something to encourage more people to take cans.

The problem with ‘turning down' energy generation to stay balanced (i.e. no more new cans on the shelf), is that it will likely mean asking small solar and wind generators to switch off. It's a waste of green power, and could even harm small UK renewable generators as they lose the opportunity to sell their clean energy.

We've got a better idea.

Instead of turning down renewables, let's collectively ‘turn up’, increasing our energy use during the times when there's too much wind and solar power on the grid – i.e. taking the green ‘tins' off the overstacked shelf.

That's where you come in...

We want you to use as much power as you can for 2 hours on Sunday.

This will help balance the grid, AND you'll be using the UK's greenest electrons to charge up, clean the house, do the washing, watch telly, bake some sourdough... anything you can think of.

Every unit of electricity you use for those 2 hours won't cost a penny — in fact, it will earn you money on your next bill.

We can do this thanks to the nifty bit of tech sitting in your cupboard that you probably (quite rightly) don't give a lot of thought to: your smart meter. But smart meters actually unlock a really awesome solution to the crisis facing our energy system. One that rewards customers for helping to make Britain greener.

So let us know if you want to be part of this, and we'll handle the rest, ensuring your smart meter will pay you for any power you use. That's just us doing our bit to help balance the grid by ‘turning up' demand, and supporting the UK's smaller renewable generators so they can keep on giving us green power.

Click here to opt in to our Big Switch On before midday on Saturday May 23rd. (We'll remind you when to switch on on Sunday!).

If you'd like to know more, take a look over the most frequently asked questions below.

Love and power Pete Miller Co-founder & Head of Customer Experience

FAQs

This sounds bonkers. How do I know it’s not a scam? We’ve written a blog about this smart trial on our website. You’ll find a link to "The Big Switch On" on our homepage at octopus.energy, under "The latest from the Octoverse". We’ve run other trials like this before (although this is by far the biggest). The "i" newspaper reported on our earlier trial in May. You can read the article here.

How can it possibly be greener to tell people to use more energy? It's not really about using MORE energy — it's about changing WHEN you use it. Every day, there are energy ‘rush hours’: times of day when most people cook dinner, put the tellie on, do the washing, have a shower. Usually it's between 4-7pm, when it's most convenient and most people are home. No matter what, the grid always has to meet our high demand during these energy ‘rush hours’ — and that often means burning extra fossil fuels.

Instead of adding to the demand at the busiest times of day, why not do everything you can to move your energy use into times when the grid has green energy to spare? You still get to do the washing, cleaning, charging, baking — but you just choose to do it when energy is low-carbon.

As the UK's power gets greener and greener, with more wind and solar and less coal and oil, there'll be more and more incidences where supply outmatches demand. The energy industry is scrambling to find ways to meet this challenge.

We reckon rewarding customers for doing their bit to make the UK's energy system smarter and greener will speed up the big change we all need: bringing about a fossil-fuel free, sustainable energy system sooner.

How do I choose the time that suits me? There’s two important crunch times on Sunday. The first is early in the morning, when a record low level of demand will put pressure on the grid. The second is in the early afternoon, when the sunny weather will mean a lot of solar generation is feeding into the grid. The pressure is the greatest in the morning, so if you can join in then, you'll earn more – 5p / kWh from 05:00-07:00. If you'd prefer to help in the afternoon, you’ll earn 2p / kWh between 14:00-16:00. Let us know you want to join in, and you can select your preferred slot at the same time.

How will you know how much I use? We can get half-hourly readings from your smart meter automatically, as long as you give us permission. We’ll ask for your permission when you agree to join the trial. If we can’t access the half-hourly readings from your smart meter within 7 days of the trial completing, we may credit your account with the average across all participants instead.

Is this a one-off? No. This is a trial in what energy nerds call ‘demand side response' — which is basically a consumer-led effort to shift energy consumption into times when there's green power to spare, and out of the busiest (and dirtiest) times every day.

As the UK's power gets greener and greener, with more wind and solar and less coal and oil, there'll be more and more incidences where supply outmatches demand. The energy industry is scrambling to find ways to meet this challenge.

We reckon rewarding customers for doing their bit to make the UK's energy system smarter and greener will speed up the big change we all need: bringing about a fossil-fuel free, sustainable energy system sooner.

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