Speaking on the proposals, Sam Laidlaw, chief executive of Centrica, which owns British Gas, explained that the tariff could help poorer households manage their energy consumption and also reduce carbon emissions.
The ‘free electricity’ on Saturdays plan has already been implemented by the company in the USA and requires participating homes to have a smart meter installed. Weekday electricity rates could also be increased for those on the plan.
With regards to a launch date, Centrica said the tariff could be available by mid-2014 in the UK.
Reducing consumption and cutting carbon emissions
Asked whether the new tariff could encourage higher rates of energy consumption at a time when cutting carbon emissions is a priority, Laidlaw replied that the UK launch would be planned in such as a way as to avoid a significant rise in energy use.
The idea behind the plan, he stated, is to encourage customers to shift their electricity- intensive activities to times when overall energy consumption is low. The initiative would reduce the need to turn on additional power stations during the week and consequently cut overall levels of carbon emissions.
The tariff was announced following the release of Centrica’s interim results yesterday, which revealed a 3% rise in British Gas profits and hinted at possible price rises.
Possible price rises on the horizon
Speaking on the issue of price rises, Laidlaw said: “With our customers using more gas to stay warm during the unusually cold winter, we’re doing everything we can to help them keep their energy costs under control and make bills simpler and clearer.”
Laidlaw added that Centrica wanted to discuss the rising costs of the ECO home insulation scheme with ministers and refused to promise that prices would not rise in 2013.
Finance director Nick Luff added: “We will keep prices as low as we can for as long as we can. If prices do have to go up, we will delay it for as long as possible.”