Energy firm British Gas is considering offering free electricity to some customers in an attempt to reduce weekday demand for power.
Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, already offers a Free Energy Saturdays tariff in the US. The aim of the initiative is to encourage customers to shift the majority of their power use to the weekend, when there is less demand for electricity from big businesses.
If the British Gas trial goes ahead, it could be available for its smart meter customers as soon as mid-2014. The energy company has one million domestic and business smart meter customers in the UK.
You can make sure you’re on the best energy tariff for you by using our free energy switching service, Which? Switch.
British Gas possible price rises
News of the new initiative comes soon after Centrica hinted at future prices rises for British Gas customers.
Profits from the energy firm’s UK residential arm rose by 3.2% in the first half of 2013. This increase has been linked to the long, cold winter and the subsequent higher demand for energy.
Centrica claims that its British Gas profits could have been higher if it were not for the impact of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) levy. Under ECO, energy firms are required to fund energy efficiency measures in customers’ homes. Centrica warned that the scheme would have an impact on customers’ bills, suggesting that prices are likely to rise.
You can find out more about British Gas and how it compares to other energy companies in our energy company review.
The smart meter roll-out
The free energy trial would only be available to smart meter customers. Smart meters are high-tech electricity and gas meters that are being rolled out to replace existing meters.
They are designed to measure your exact gas and electricity use and send all the information back to your energy supplier, meaning no more estimated bills. In theory, as you become more aware of how much energy you’re using, you can take steps to reduce your energy usage.
Although British Gas has already installed a large number of smart meters, the official roll-out for all energy suppliers is scheduled to start in 2015 and finish in 2020.
- Watch our video guide to smart meters and energy monitors
- Find out more about smart meter installations
- Save money on your energy bills with an energy monitor