Angry Brits slam national grid blackout

Britons have revealed how they sat in the dark for an hour last night as a million homes and businesses slashed their electricity use only to be told they would get 5p off their energy bills.

The National Grid said the Great British Lockdown, called the Demand Flexibility Service (DFS), could become a feature of British life with another one occurring between 4.30pm and 6pm tonight.

Rising energy charges and cold weather have caused many households to resort to desperate savings measures, and a million homes and businesses have scrambled to sign up for a scheme that pays them to turn off washing machines, ovens, dishwashers and even lights.

One Bedfordshire family told MailOnline how they sat in the dark between 5pm and 6pm yesterday holding only a torch after being promised up to £20 off the national grid. But many believe that it will work for a few pennies.

Susan Murray, a manager from Southampton who got involved yesterday, told the BBC: ‘E.ON told me if I hit my 20% reduction target… I could earn about 5p. This is not worth it.

Amanda Bora and her family went on a bike ride to avoid using electricity in the home, but many who wanted to sign up were told they couldn’t.

Amanda Bora and her family went on a bike ride to avoid using electricity in the home

The national grid is encouraging homeowners to take part in the scheme in a bid to avoid potential power outages – and that’s how much they can save. Experts have suggested its customers could save up to £240 this winter if there are 12 Demand Flexibility Service events called by the National Grid.

Demand for participation has been so high that some energy companies are turning people away because pilot schemes are “full.” British Gas customers told MailOnline they begged the recording only for employees to say they knew nothing about it.

One said: ‘British Gas tops the list of the 26 suppliers that are supposed to be in the scheme. I have a smart meter. I have an account. I have the app. There is no clear mention of the scheme anywhere’.

Another wrote: “I called the customer service helpline this morning and although the lady I spoke with was very nice and tried to help, she didn’t know at first what I was talking about. She came back to me after she checked and said I was correct. However, it stated that only some emails were sent.

She added: “It is not fair that customers of the original smart meter lost £20 because emails to me and others were not sent.”

British Gas customer Russell Purdy, from Blackpool, spent more than an hour trying to sign up for the service yesterday after reading about it in the news.

‘I know I qualify because I got a smart meter,’ said Mr Purdy, 64, ‘but I checked my emails and was never invited. I’ve talked to a couple of different people using online chat and no one seems to have a clue how to sign me up.

“It’s frustrating because I’d love to be a part of it but it was impossible.”

Some people have already signed up for shutdown beta programs but received less money than expected. The National Grid predicted it could be as much as £20.

One person who signed up told MailOnline he had received an email from energy supplier Eon that said he would only earn “about 30p” by taking part in the DFS initiative. Others claimed they only received between £0.38 and £4.07.

Another Eon customer, Sharon Priestley, said she was told she only earned 58p.

It was launched on a national scale last night (Monday) when people were asked to reduce their electricity use for one hour – between 6pm and 7pm. It will run again for 90 minutes this afternoon between 4.30pm and 6pm.

Brits have shared screenshots of their smart meters online to show how little electricity they were consuming

Brits have shared screenshots of their smart meters online to show how little electricity they were consuming

Some took the opportunity to enjoy a candlelit dinner

Some took the opportunity to enjoy a candlelit dinner

Brits take to social media to display their candlelit or LED-lit settings to see them through the voluntary blackout

Brits take to social media to display their candlelit or LED-lit settings to see them through the voluntary blackout

During a false alarm earlier this month, it was suggested that a lack of wind was a major cause. This time outages in gas and nuclear plants is a bigger factor.

Separately, the national grid has put coal-fired power plants on standby that may be needed to keep the lights on during periods of high demand.

These measures are designed to save energy without resorting to drastic measures such as power outages.

In general, participants in the DFS scheme are asked to reduce their energy by 30 percent compared to their normal peak time in response to a monetary reward.

During the trials, most made a very modest cash savings of around £4, however, the top 5 percent of heavy users typically managed to save more than £20.

Octopus has increased its customers’ cash reward by 50 per cent to £3.37 per kWh or energy saving against the target. As a result, they will typically save around £5.50 and potentially as much as £30.

One lucky participant will win a £500 bonus towards their bills in the customer lottery.

It is understood that a record number – 400,000-500,000 – of its clients participated last night and will do so again today.

A spokesperson said: ‘If you live in a large multi-person home and usually use a lot of energy at 5pm, turning down white goods and turning off the oven, microwave or TV, will likely save you a lot. from money.

“We do not encourage people to sit in the dark and live by candlelight.”

Energy spreads between supply and demand are currently narrower due to outages at gas and nuclear power plants, said Phil Hewitt, director of energy consulting firm EnAppSys.

He said offering people money to reduce energy use is cheaper for the national grid than asking the power company to fire up a stalled power plant.

The National Grid warned in October that homes could face up to three hours of power outages this winter if the country is unable to secure enough gas and electricity imports. DFS launched as part of the toolbox to help prevent cuts.

The network said people should not worry and insisted that the implementation of the scheme did not mean that the electricity supply was at risk.

National Grid ESO’s head of national oversight, Craig Dyke, said the DSF has been ordered to ‘ensure that everyone has access to the electricity they need’.

He refused to rule out using the “world-leading” scheme each winter, saying it would “progress towards net zero”.

Asked if it could become a feature of British life every winter, Dyke told the BBC: “It’s something we believe very strongly in. This is the start of something much bigger.”

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