British Gas to offer free electricity on Saturdays

British Gas customers struggling to meet the cost of rising energy bills could soon be offered a scheme giving them 'free electricity' every Saturday.

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Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, announced the plans after refusing to rule out further price rises, despite its UK domestic operation posting a 3% increase in profits to £356million in the first six months of the year.

The idea behind the scheme, which could be launched next year, is to encourage households fitted with ‘smart meters’ to use more energy at the weekend when overall demand is low. Customers would receive 24 hours of free electricity every Saturday.

Centrica says a number of households are trialling the scheme to gauge its popularity. The firm already offers a 'Free Power Saturdays' tariff in its Direct Energy operations in Texas and the north-east of the US.

Who will qualify for the tariff?

The scheme would be available to the estimated 600,000 domestic British Gas customers who have a smart meter in their home.

Smart meters communicate directly with the energy supplier so that your bills are always based on an accurate reading. This means no one has to come round to your home to take a meter reading and you never have to give a meter reading yourself, but you can still be reassured that you're not paying more for your energy than you should be.

The government intends every home to have a smart meter by 2020.

Will it work?

The tariff could work well for those who spend most of the week out at work and tend to only use appliances such as the washing machine and tumble dryer at the weekend.

But it's unlikely to benefit stay-at-home parents who have mountains of washing to do during the week and then tend to get out of the house with the kids at the weekend. And it's arguably this category of customers who are likely to be feeling the pinch of high energy costs the most.

There are also question marks over how much you'll need to increase your energy usage by at the weekend, and whether the price of energy will rise during the week, as it has done for US customers.

Switch your tariff

If you are struggling to meet the cost of your energy bills, even before the annual price hike season in the autumn, there are a number of steps you can take. First and foremost, use our energy comparison service (http://www.moneysupermarket.com/gas-and-electricity/) to see whether there is a cheaper energy tariff out there for you.

Switching tariffs shouldn't be a stressful affair as your new and current energy supplier will do all of the work and the whole process should be completed within six to eight weeks. You can find out more about the switching process in Mark Hooson's article.

But there are several other measures you can take to help cut your energy bills too – more expensive options include insulating your home and getting windows double-glazed, but there are plenty of cheaper, easier options such as using energy-saving light bulbs and not leaving appliances on standby. You can read more about this here

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.

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