When I moved here almost 3 years ago, I chose Bulb as my gas and electric supplier. They are quite cheap, use 100% renewable electricity and were rolling out smart meters and some interesting new ideas.
They’ve been good and I’ve had no reason to switch away from them.
There were teething problems with my smart meter, including not getting billed for about 5 months, but Bulb weren’t the only ones having problems with smart meter reliability. But it’s settled down and been working fine for about a year now. I like that I can see what electricity and gas I’m using right now, and look back at my usage yesterday, last week etc.
One of the promised featured hasn’t happened yet, and this irked me. I’d like to be able to download a file containing my usage stats, then I can put them in a spreadsheet and use that to help me save. When is my peak usage? How much gets used overnight ? Bulb said they’d offer this but it hasn’t appeared.
And there was also supposed to be a new pricing plan that dynamically changes the cost based on fluctuating price points. The commercial cost of electricity varies hourly, and given that the smart meter reports usage dynamically, there could be a system that charges that dynamic price instead of a fixed price per kWh. Bulb promised this, but it hasn’t happened.
In January I was looking at Octopus energy, who do offer a dynamic price plan called Octopus Agile, and you do get live access to your usage data via their Web API. Ace! But at the time their standing charge was a bit higher than Bulb, so I might not make a saving by moving.
Then a few weeks ago bulb announced a price increase that puts their standing charge at pretty much the same as Octopus.
With J’s help, we made a spreadsheet with Octopus Agile pricing data in it, and typed in my hourly usage withBulb.
The spreadsheet showed that I’d make a saving by moving to Octopus, so I have done that, and the switch over happens in a few days.
So why am I excited about this, apart from saving a bit of money? Well, the agile pricing varies a lot from day to day, from hour to hour. Each day at 4pm the prices are released for the next 24 hours.
Using this data you can plan when to switch in heavy loads, like washing machines and water heaters, or to charge an electric car.
The dynamic pricing is an interesting thing. Peak cost is 4-7pm, when the price per kWh goes way above the standard fixed tarrif, up to a maximum of 35p per kWh. But the rest of the day it’s usually a bit lower, sometimes a lot lower.
I’ve made a device that plots graphs showing the cost per kWh, and it’s usually cheaper than my bulb contract.
Written underneath are the current and upcoming Bulb kWh prices, on the display is the current Octopus agile price. 0.5p! That’s cheaper than the gas per kWh, so it would make sense at that time to switch the electric water heater on, to bake cakes and charge my electric bike. In the winter, if the price drops low overnight, perhaps an electric heater could be switched on to warm the house, and so use less gas in the day.
I’m hoping to automate these things, so that when the electric price is cheaper than gas, the water heater switches on, for example.
The game will then be to see how much less I can use at peak time 4-7pm. Avoid running the electric oven at that time for example.
There are also occasional times when the demand is lower than the supply, and you actually get paid to use electricity! So that would be a great time to charge things, heat water, etc. Again this could be automated.
Here’s another day, where the current price is higher than the Bulb price, but look at the graph. Most if the day it’s a lot lower. The colours haven’t come out well, but the graph is black when Octopus Agile is cheaper than Bulb, and red when it’s more expensive. There’s much more black than red.
Once I’ve switched and have access to the dynamic data, I shall modify the device to show me two bills – how much I used yesterday and it’s cost Vs it’s cost if I was still with Bulb. That way I can see if my predictions are correct, and if so how much I’m saving.
And if it all goes wrong I can slink back to Bulb energy again!