Wait eight seconds longer for your kettle – and cut your carbon bill

(The Guardian, 27 Oct 2019) Electricity North West says plans to lower its voltage could cut emissions by 10% and save customers £60 a year.

From Cheshire to Cumbria, thousands of people may soon be waiting a little longer for kettles to boil. A small sacrifice, perhaps, for cheaper energy.

Under plans to lower the voltage of energy grids across the north-west of England, about 45,000 homes can expect to shave £60 from their annual electricity bills. The scheme could save millions of pounds on energy a year and cut carbon emissions without people noticing any difference, says the local network company.

During “Smart Street” trials over four years, engineers for Electricity North West found they could carefully lower the grid’s voltage by enough to save on energy without noticeably slowing household appliances or causing light bulbs to flicker.

“Nobody noticed the changes until they were given their bill and suddenly found out they’d been using less electricity,” said Steve Cox, the company’s engineering director.

“If we reduced the voltage by a few percent, then a full kettle might take eight seconds longer to boil. If we boost the voltage, it might boil eight seconds faster. But within the typical time it takes to boil a kettle, say two minutes, this really isn’t noticeable.”

“Voltage control” is well established in some states in the US, but Electricity North West will be the first network in the UK to reduce its voltage towards the lower end of the normal 220V to 240V range.

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The Guardian, 27 Oct 2019: Wait eight seconds longer for your kettle – and cut your carbon bill