During the Covid-19 pandemic, global greenhouse gas emissions have dropped significantly, and many are hopeful about the positive greener changes ahead. But there are many questions that first need to be resolved.
One concerns the question of electricity pricing. During the lockdown period in the UK, some consumers on flexible 'green' tariffs actually experienced times when they were paid to use power at home. This was because wind turbines were producing more energy during high winds than the grid could immediately cope with. By increasing customer demand, the peak could be smoothed out.
During lockdown, electricity usage across Europe dropped by around 15%, but supplies boomed. Prices dropped below zero at points because wholesale electricity pricing is carried out for the day ahead, on a half-hourly basis. In the UK this translated into 66 periods of negative pricing.
Customers with Octopus Energy benefited to the tune of 4p per unit, which may have been a sign of how things will be handled in future. Those customers received an email 24 hours before the tariff 'refunds' came into place, and they were given clear indications of the times at which they could run appliances and receive a rebate for doing so. This allowed Octopus to smooth out its supply peak and avoid overloading the grid.
So what is next for this type of tariff? Many believe that flexible pricing methods will be a feature of tomorrow's power supply contracts, with the future being powered by energy storage, flexible clean technology power plants and an array of low-carbon technologies. If so, it will certainly be good news for everyone, with customers benefiting from free or even 'refunded' energy prices, and the environment continuing to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy.