THREE coal power plants are on standby as the scheme designed to stop blackouts is set to go live for the first time.

National Grid’s system operator said it expected the margins of electricity supply to be “tighter than normal” on Monday night as much of the UK faces freezing temperatures.

However, it added that “people should not be worried” and that the three plants, one at West Burton in Lincolnshire and two at Drax Group’s site in North Yorkshire, may not be required.

The Demand Flexibility Service (DFS) which will reward people for cutting back on power-intensive products during peak hours will come into force for an hour from 5pm.

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A range of companies including British Gas, Octopus Energy, E. ON and OVO among others have agreed to meet with customers across Scotland, England and Wales in a bid to reduce energy use.

A notice was issued by the Electricity System Operator (ESO) at 2.30pm on Sunday announcing a requirement of more than 600 megawatts.

The ESO has confirmed it will require 323 megawatts of energy between 5pm and 5.30pm and 336 megawatts between 5.30pm and 6pm on Monday.

A spokesperson for National Grid ESO said: “Our forecasts show electricity supply margins are expected to be tighter than normal on Monday evening.

“We have instructed coal-fired power units to be available to increase electricity supplies should it be needed tomorrow evening.

“We are also activating a Live Demand Flexibility Service event between 5-6pm tomorrow. This does not mean electricity supplies are at risk and people should not be worried.

“These are precautionary measures to maintain the buffer of spare capacity we need.”

The DFS will run until March and is the first scheme of its kind.

It will see households paid to put on utilities such as dishwashers or washing machines away from peak hours.

Earlier this year, ESO ran a successful trial with Octopus Energy. Following this, it has worked with suppliers, aggregators and consumer groups to make the scheme available at a national level.

Suppliers can sign up to the service which then means consumers wishing to flex electricity use and benefit can do so via their provider directly.

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Approved providers include Octopus Energy, Scottish (British) Gas, E.ON Next, Shell, Energy Retail and 20 others.

Big businesses will also be paid to reduce demand by shifting when they use energy or switching to batteries or generators during peak times.