Here’s another great idea from the net zero establishment: only heat your home when it is warm and sunny outdoors. In its Sixth Carbon Budget paper, the government’s Climate Change Committee advises homeowners to turn their heating on in the afternoon, so that they can turn it off again during the evening when demand for electricity is higher. ‘Where homes are sufficiently well-insulated,’ it says, ‘it is possible to pre-heat ahead of peak times, enabling access to cheaper tariffs which reflect the reduced costs associated with running networks and producing power during off-peak times.’ In other words, boil yourself when the outdoor temperature is relatively warm, and with any luck you might still be tolerably warm when it is freezing outdoors at eight in the evening.
The advice is an admission of where we are headed. At the moment, for most of us, there is no difference between the price of electricity during the afternoon and the evening – it is only at night that we can buy off-peak electricity. That is not how it looks like being in the future. A big part of the plan for decarbonising the electricity system is to manage demand by varying tariffs throughout the day. That is the whole point of smart meters. We had a foretaste of this last winter when customers with smart meters were offered small discounts if they agreed to turn off appliances during the early evening on days when demand was high but, thanks to a lack of sun and wind, renewable energy was in short supply.
That, however, is only the beginning. At the moment, with the help of back-up from gas plants, we don’t have a huge problem in balancing demand and with supply. But by 2035 (2030 in the case of the Labour party) the government wants to remove all fossil fuels from the electricity grid.