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A scheme launched today lets invited households with a smart meter opt-in to reduce their electricity consumption at peak times if asked.

In return for moves such as not using a washing machine or dishwasher until later in the evening, consumers will be paid for every peak unit of electricity they are calculated to have saved.

British Gas says customers could save up to £100 in the “Peak Save” trial. Other suppliers also offer the option.

UK’s gas storage capability has dropped from 14 days to just six in the last 12 years, though the reopening of the Rough North Sea storage raises that buffer to nine days.

Chris O’Shea, CEO of BG owner Centrica, warned nine days was still not enough. He added: “A number of other countries have got a lot more storage.”

Dale Vince, founder of green energy supplier Ecotricity, said: “We haven’t had a proper energy policy over the past 12 years.”