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Octopus Energy will pay customers to use electricity in UK’s largest ever consumer energy trial

22 May 2020
  • Octopus Energy will offer to pay over 100,000 customers to use electricity this Bank Holiday weekend
  • Plans follow fears of Covid-induced blackouts due to record-low demand
  • Giant experiment will pave the way for a clean, green, smart energy grid, and prove that energy technology could save taxpayers £40bn

Octopus Energy, the UK’s leading energy technology company, will pay its customers to use electricity this Bank Holiday weekend, in what is being hailed as a turning point for consumers and the climate.

Over 100,000 Octopus Energy customers who have a smart meter installed will be paid to watch TV, use the oven, dishwasher, washing machine and even charge their electric car in the largest ever trial of consumer behaviour by a British energy company.

The plan follows reports earlier this month that the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to blackouts and to renewable generation being turned off as energy demand dropped by up to 20% because shops, factories, and transport companies all massively reduced their electricity use during lockdown. 

The UK’s power grid is finely balanced, meaning that too much power generation at the same time as low demand can lead to serious supply problems. Smart meters have enabled some welcome changes in the way British consumers use energy but, to realise their full potential, smart meters need to be linked to a smart grid. Today’s ‘dumb’ grid leads to millions of megawatts of renewable energy being wasted every year because demand can’t always be balanced to prioritise renewable supply.

Instead of turning off free, clean, wind and solar energy to balance the grid, Octopus Energy will show that ‘giving power to the people’ can balance supply and demand and save billions of pounds in unnecessary infrastructure by rewarding smart meter customers for changing the times they use energy. The trial will prove that a smart grid that empowers customers, enables greater uptake of renewables, and maintains security of supply is possible now, and that it should be a priority for government and the energy regulator, Ofgem.

Greg Jackson, founder and CEO of Octopus Energy, said:

“If the UK doesn’t urgently embrace the small changes needed to enable a smart energy grid, the country could end up missing net zero targets, and footing a £40bn bill for infrastructure that it doesn’t need at a time when it can’t afford it. 

“We’ve said for years that putting energy technology in the hands of consumers and trusting them to use it could save the country a fortune whilst dramatically cutting emissions. This Bank Holiday weekend we’re going to prove it.”

Calls for a radical acceleration of the UK’s plans for ‘net zero’ have grown since the Coronavirus lockdown and, with power generation normally making up around one fifth of UK carbon emissions, the electricity grid is likely to remain a key focus area for government and consumers once the worst of the pandemic has passed. 

Octopus Energy plans to use the results to make the case for a smart electricity grid, and for an acceleration in the structural and regulatory changes needed to achieve it.

This weekend’s full trial follows a small pilot run by Octopus Energy over this year’s first May Bank Holiday weekend. The results demonstrated remarkable behavioural change driven by small incentives, with one group seeing a 240% increase in customers using electricity when they were asked to.

The experiment will invite all of Octopus Energy’s eligible smart meter customers to take part, with huge numbers expected to opt-in.

Octopus Energy was formed only 4 years ago, and recently became a ‘tech unicorn’ following a £300m investment from Australia’s Origin Energy, valuing the company at well over £1bn. The company now serves over 1.5 million UK homes.


For journalists in their professional capacity only. Issued by Octopus Energy Ltd. Registered office: 33 Holborn, London, EC1N 2HT. Registered in England and Wales No. 09263424. Issued: May 2020.