Taking part in the Demand Flexibility Service
- The Demand Flexibility Service offers financial rewards to people who use less electricity during ‘peak times’. These are usually late afternoon/early evening.
- The DFS was created to reduce pressure on the electricity grid during peak times. This means we can avoid powering up fossil fuel power stations or importing energy when demand is high.
- Financial rewards for DFS participants are typically small (between £1 and £5 per event) but people take part for other reasons like wanting to support a low carbon energy system or to learn about their energy use.
- It only considers electricity use – so gas heating and cooking won’t affect your rewards.
What is the Demand Flexibility Service?
The Demand Flexibility Service (DFS) is a scheme run by the National Grid electricity system operator (ESO). It aims to reduce the demand for electricity during ‘peak times’ – the times when people across the UK use the most energy. People who opt in to take part in the DFS through an energy company receive rewards (usually money off their electricity bill or entry into a prize draw) for using less electricity during peak times. Find out more about the DFS on the National Grid ESO website.
Different companies call the service by different names. For example, Saving Sessions, PeakSave, Power Payback, Beat the Peak and PowerDOWN are all part of the Demand Flexibility Service.
Why do we need to be flexible with our home energy use?
In the UK, demand for energy spikes in the late afternoon/early evening when people come home from work or school and turn on their heating, use devices and washing machines, cook dinner and so on. When lots of people are using energy at the same time we have to power up fossil fuel power stations or import expensive gas or electricity to be able to supply enough energy. This increases the cost of energy bills and the amount of carbon we add to the atmosphere. We can reduce this by using electricity earlier or later in the day instead of at ‘peak time’.
Being flexible with when we use energy will become more important as we transition to a future net zero energy system. As more of our energy is produced by renewable sources like wind and solar, we’ll need to learn to use more energy when the wind is blowing, and the sun is shining.
To cope with current energy demand at peak times, we’d have to build a huge number of solar farms, wind turbines and battery storage. This would be wasteful – it’s better for the planet and the cost of energy if we can spread out our energy usage. That way we only need enough wind and solar to produce the total energy we use in a day, rather than enough to produce most of that energy at peak times.
The DFS is being run as a trial to see how people find being flexible with their energy use. Right now it’s happening intermittently, as ‘live events’ where participants are asked to reduce their electricity use when there is expected to to be a lot of pressure on the grid. The service will inform future flexible energy offers through options like Time of Use (TOU) tariffs.
Should I take part in the Demand Flexibility Service?
To take part in the DFS you need:
- A smart meter. Check out our advice about smart meters.
- Your energy supplier needs to be providing the service. If they’re taking part, they’ll contact you to ask you to join.
- Or you can join via an online scheme or app if your supplier isn’t participating. Check the list of approved providers here.
Lots of companies offer the DFS, but you can only take part in one company’s scheme at a time.
It’s free to take part and you don’t lose anything if you don’t manage to shift any electricity use.
Why take part in the Demand Flexibility Service?
We spoke to people who participated last year about why they chose to take part in the DFS, and how they found it.
Most people felt it was a positive experience and said they would do it again.
The most common motivator was financial rewards. However, most people only earned a few pounds. You can find out more about how much you are likely to earn here.
But money was not the only reason people took part, many enjoyed other aspects like:
- Learning about energy use.
- Feeling part of a national effort and helping out.
- Taking time off from using electrical devices.
- Seeing it as a fun game or challenge to see how little energy they could use.
- Doing something positive for the planet.
“It was fun, to see what is possible, and shave a few pounds off the awful bills.”
“On a few occasions I used it as a motivator to go out for a run in weather that otherwise might have caused me to put it off!”
“A nudge to do something other than staring at the screen!
The rewards you earn are based on how much electricity you normally use at peak times, and how much you can reduce this during a DFS event – the window of time your supplier asks you to reduce your electricity use. So if you normally use 3kWh of electricity between 5 and 6 pm and you reduce this on the day of the event, you’ll get a reward.
The people who can earn the most are those that normally use a lot of electricity at peak times, that they could shift to a different time. For example, if you usually have your electric heating on, use an electric shower or the immersion heater for baths, or charge up your electric car at peak times. All of these things could be done at a different time of day. The DFS only considers electricity use, so gas heating and cooking won’t affect your rewards.
If you don’t tend to use much electricity at peak times, then you don’t have much to shift, and you probably won’t earn much. Find out more about how much you are likely to earn here.
Last year we found that higher rewards were earned by:
- Homes with electric heating (but not those with night storage heaters that charge up overnight).
- Homes with at least one adult and two or more children, with gas heating.
- Those with an electric vehicle (EV) that they charge up in peak times.
People living alone in homes with gas heating tended to earn low rewards.
What if I’m already on Economy 7 or a special EV charging tariff?
If you get cheaper electricity overnight (for example on Economy 7, often used by people with night storage heaters) or if you are on a special EV tariff that gives you cheaper electricity overnight to charge up your car, then you are already shifting your electricity use out of peak times.
Though your electricity use is probably relatively high, participating in the DFS won’t provide much saving as you don’t have high peak time usage to reduce.
How much electricity could you save during peak times?
Use your smart meter to find out how much electricity you typically use.
You can find out how much electricity you used over the last day, week or month with your in-home display. You can also download an app to help you access this information easily. Check out our smart meter advice page for more info.
Work out what you can safely and easily shift.
The aim is to reduce your normal usage as much as you safely can during the DFS event time. The more electricity an appliance uses (usually in kWh) the higher the savings you can make from shifting use of that appliance. Your smart meter or app can help you work out how much energy different appliances and devices are using.
The best appliances for earning rewards
The table below shows some of the best and worst appliances for earning rewards. Our What uses Watt? Advice page goes into more detail about how much electricity things in the home use.
|Highest energy use appliances
|Lowest energy use appliances
|Charging electric car for one hour
|LED lightbulb on for 5 hours
|Electric shower for 15 minutes
|Phone charging for 7 hours
|Electric hob for one hour
|Hair straighteners for 30 mins
|Dishwasher for 90-minute cycle
|TV for 4 hours
|Tumble dryer for 35 minutes
Stay safe while saving energy
If you’re reducing your energy use for a DFS event, make sure you …
- Stay warm. A cold home can damage your mental and physical health. Gas and oil heating systems won’t count towards rewards. If you have electric heating (not on an Economy 7 tariff) and are planning on turning it down, check out our advice for staying warm in a cold home.
- Don’t turn off the lights! Lights use very little energy, so you’ll only earn pennies for switching them off. Keep lights on in the rooms you’re using to avoid trips and falls (and feeling miserable in a dark room).
- Leave essential electrical items on — remember, rewards from the DFS are relatively small. Never turn off essential medical or mobility equipment. Similarly, fridges and freezers use very little energy, so turning them off won’t influence your earnings much – it’s not worth letting your food spoil.
- Don’t run washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers overnight – if anything goes wrong you are less likely to notice. You should also make sure you have a working smoke alarm in the home.
- Smart plugs can be controlled from your phone and may be easier to switch on and off than accessing the plug socket. Prices start at around £10. See our advice on smart plugs for more details.
- Be careful of scams. DFS providers are regulated, and it should be safe to share your data with them. But be aware of people pretending to be energy companies to get your money or personal information.
How much could you earn from taking part in the DFS?
Find out how much you’d be likely to earn from shifting your energy use away from peak times and check out real examples from last year’s DFS participants.