Households to be paid for daytime green electricity use during lockdown

Thousands of British homes will be paid to use electricity during the day for the first time, as wind and solar projects produce a surge in clean energy during the coronavirus lockdown.

On Sunday morning, windfarms contributed almost 40% of the UK’s electricity, while solar power made up almost a fifth of the power system. Fossil fuels made up less than 15% of electricity, of which only 1.1% came from coal plants.

Meanwhile, the country’s energy demand has fallen by around 10% due to the shutdown of pubs, restaurants, companies and factories across the country, leading to the lowest electricity market prices in 10 years.

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Quick guide UK government support for workers and businesses during the coronavirus crisis
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Income subsidies

Direct cash grants for self-employed people, worth 80% of average profits, up to GBP2,500 a month. There are similar wage subsidies for employees.

Loan guarantees for business

Government to back GBP330bn of loans to support businesses through a Bank of England scheme for big firms. There are loans of up to GBP5m with no interest for six months for smaller companies.

Business rates

Taxes levied on commercial premises will be abolished this year for all retailers, leisure outlets and hospitality sector firms.

Cash grants

Britain’s smallest 700,000 businesses eligible for cash grants of GBP10,000. Small retailers, leisure and hospitality firms can get bigger grants of GBP25,000.

Benefits

Government to increase value of universal credit and tax credits by GBP1,000 a year, as well as widening eligibility for these benefits.

Sick pay

Statutory sick pay to be made available from day one, rather than day four, of absence from work, although ministers have been criticised for not increasing the level of sick pay above GBP94.25 a week. Small firms can claim for state refunds on sick pay bills.

Other

Local authorities to get a GBP500m hardship fund to provide people with council tax payment relief.

Mortgage and rental holidays available for up to three months.

Households on a new breed of home energy tariff will even be paid to use electricity during the day on Sunday, because sunny weather and a brisk breeze will help generate ample clean electricity to meet the UK’s lower energy needs.

The so-called “negative electricity prices” have previously only been available to homes overnight, when demand is typically at its lowest. But the impact of the coronavirus lockdown and the bright spring weather mean some homes will be able to earn money while using clean electricity during the day for the first time.

Households which use the Agile Octopus energy tariff, offered by Octopus Energy, were contacted on Saturday to let them know they would be paid for every kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity they use during the sunniest hours of Sunday afternoon.

From 11am-4pm, those customers will earn 0.22p-3.3p per kWh to make use of the UK’s abundant clean energy, the company said.

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The coronavirus has caused the UK’s demand for electricity to fall by between 9% and 13% so far, according to analysts at Cornwall Insight. While home energy use is higher because people are self-isolating and working from home, the lockdown has led to a lower demand for electricity across the country due to the shutdown of “large electrical loads” such as factories, shops and railways.

Energy bill savings are also likely for homes using variable energy tariffs, which track the wholesale energy markets.

A slump in global gas market prices over the last year, combined with the lockdown, caused the wholesale price of electricity on the UK power markets to fall to GBP28 per megawatt hour (MWh) last week. The electricity market price is down a third from January this year and well below the GBP44/MWh price recorded this time last year.

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