How the energy system of tomorrow could have saved >£100m in COVID grid balancing costs - OVO Group
Media Centre

How the energy system of tomorrow could have saved >£100m in COVID grid balancing costs


10 June 2020

  • National Grid has forecast that its spending on balancing the grid from May to August 2020 is set to cost a further £500million due to COVID-19 related reduced electricity demand.
  • Cleantech companies have today written to Ofgem highlighting that up to £133million could have been saved through smart charging and a higher uptake of electric vehicles.
  • Consumers will continue to face higher than necessary bills for balancing if technologies like this remain underused, as balancing costs are spread across households.


London – 10 June, 2020 – Today, leaders from across the cleantech industry have outlined that up to £133million could have been saved in electricity grid costs during the lockdown period if electric vehicle (EV) smart charging and smart tech adoption had been more wide scale. The companies have written to the regulator to highlight the important savings that could be made if the UK had a more intelligent energy system. 


During lockdown, abundant renewable generation and record low energy demand have created balancing challenges for the national electricity system operator. In response, National Grid has increased balancing costs by £500million this summer, extra charges that will ultimately fall on consumers as part of their energy bills. This amount comes from the cost of the National Grid paying for actions to help balance demand and supply. Without modern systems in place for balancing the network which would pay consumers, National Grid are reliant on legacy solutions, such as paying renewable generation to switch off when energy is being produced in excess of what can be used at the time. 


Electric vehicles are able to support the grid through intelligently charging during periods of low demand and carbon intensity, and could be helping to create a more resilient, lower cost system. In addition to EVs, there already exists a wide range of flexible technologies that could be supporting the grid while also delivering customer cost and carbon savings, such as smart electric heaters and home solar batteries. 

A pioneering group of organisations across the energy sector have forecast that, in a system where flexible storage capacity from 6 million electric vehicles could have provided the grid an extra 3.6 TWh of energy, up to £133million could have been saved. This saving equates to a 27% reduction on balancing costs for National Grid and a subsequent bill saving of £4.82 for each UK household. 

Throughout the lockdown period, consumers have saved hundreds of grams of CO2 per day by storing green energy in car batteries and other home storage systems and feeding it back to the grid when demand increases. Consumers with vehicle-to-grid devices have in fact been paid to sell surplus energy to the grid, with an increase in export rates of 50% throughout April. Over the last two months in Orkney, innovative technologies have enabled a further 7.5MWh of wind power to be generated when it would have been wasted.

Pilot and test projects have already demonstrated the value of smart, low carbon technologies across homes. Despite successful real-world results and commitments from Ofgem and the Government to create a more intelligent system, the market frameworks that would enable these smart technologies to support the energy system are not yet in place. While reforms are underway, it’s not certain they will go far and fast enough in delivering the signals that tell users when they should be charging for cheaper, greener energy. 

The lockdown period has demonstrated the need for these technologies and why they will be so important as we move towards a more decarbonised system.   

Greg Jackson, Founder, CEO, Octopus Energy: “The bank holiday weekends have been a wake up call. With a flexible, digital grid, cheap renewable power would have saved households money. Without it, they will be forced to pay billions in infrastructure upgrades and compensation payments. We need to fix this, fast.”

Marzia Zafar, Head of Customer Policy & Strategy, at OVO Group’s Kaluza said: “The technology works, the benefits are clear, and it’s now time to take some real action in rolling out a smarter grid. These increased balancing costs demonstrate how important it is to lay the foundations for a flexible grid that places customers at the heart of the energy transition and leads to a more affordable system.”

Colin Calder, Chief Executive, PassivSystems said: “The size of savings in the future energy system should not be overlooked. Smart devices will allow customers to receive tangible benefits for using their energy demand effectively, but by co-ordinating energy across households there can be even greater savings to the grid without affecting the experience of the customer.” 

Jorge Pikunic, Managing Director of Centrica Business Solutions, said: “The solution to balancing the system of the future does not lie in curtailing renewables or indeed spending billions building out more central power generation as back up. Instead, we should treat renewable energy like a precious resource and encourage the use of flexible technologies such as Demand Side Response and storage, as this will allow us to optimally use this green energy, at the lowest cost to consumers.”


Notes to editors


  • The figures have been drawn together by members of the Flexibility First Forum
    – an affiliation of organisations highlighting the value of energy demand flexibility to the energy system and consumers – that includes: The Association for Decentralised Energy, BEAMA, Caplor, Centrica, Eco2Solar, Electron, Energy Unlocked, Eon, Flexitricity, Graham Oakes Ltd, Kaluza, Moixa, Octopus Energy, OVO Energy, PassivSystems, The REA, Solar Trade Association.
  • The high winds over the early May bank holiday weekend helped push the UK’s generation from renewables to 50%, peaking at 83%. National Grid took emergency measures last month so it could instruct renewables to switch off when demand was low.
  • Initial costs for balancing the system for the late May bank holiday alone are estimated to be £51m.
Press enter or esc to cancel