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Do you get PAID to use energy?


Robert Cheesewright

Director of Corporate Affairs, Smart Energy GB

Did you know that during recent weekends in both December and February energy customers across Great Britain, using flexible time-of-use tariffs, were PAID to use energy over night as record levels of wind generation saw energy prices plummet into minus figures?



Negative pricing happens when there is a large amount of cheap, green energy on the system and consumers are paid to use energy and relieve pressure on the network. Recent storms have meant that wind turbines across the country were producing a huge amount of green energy.  


While consumers benefitted individually by being paid to charge their electric vehicles, do their washing or put the tumble dryer on, their individual actions combined to achieve something much more significant – they helped to relieve pressure on the national energy system and prevent renewable energy from being wasted.


December’s negative price weekend was so noteworthy that National Grid ESO’s Director of Operations took to social media to personally thank customers for helping the energy system.


Energy flexibility that helped both households and our energy infrastructure was made possible thanks to smart meters. With every smart meter installed we are creating a smarter and digitised energy system which is able to be truly responsive to supply and demand.


Man and child in front of wind turbine


If we are serious about meeting our climate change ambitions of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, we need to rapidly decarbonise our whole energy system and upgrade to one which is better able to integrate renewable energy sources – something which can be problematic as renewable sources generate intermittently.


A smart energy system, underpinned by the functionality of smart meters, can contribute to resolving the problem of intermittency. Unlike the traditional energy grid, a smart energy system uses digital technology to improve efficiency and become more flexible. This in turn helps to integrate an increased amount of renewables into the system, whilst also helping us meet the additional demands placed on our system by electric vehicles and the electrification of domestic heating.


Enabled by smart meters, flexible energy tariffs have an important role to play in the transition to net-zero. They are designed to reward customers when they use energy at times of the day when our system is best able to accommodate the electricity demand.


These tariffs are still relatively uncommon. However, as we have seen over recent weekends, they have the potential to help reduce the strain on Britain’s energy system and lower consumer energy bills. Thanks to the ongoing smart meter rollout, momentum is beginning to build and situations where consumers are paid for using energy may even become common place!


With consumers now being paid to use excess green energy, it is more important than ever to continue upgrading Britain’s energy system into one that is fit for the 21st Century - an energy system which is more sustainable, less reliant on non-renewable fuel sources, and one which enables flexible energy tariffs and supports the mass take up of electric vehicles and decarbonised heating.


Smart Energy GB is the campaign for a smarter Britain. We are the independent voice for the consumer in the smart meter rollout. We're independent of government, we're not an energy supplier and we don't make or fit smart meters. We want to make sure everyone understands smart meters and the benefits they bring to households, as well as the benefits that the national rollout will bring to everyone in Great Britain.