What is the National Grid voice assistant skill?

Our voice assistant skill is a handy way to make smarter energy choices and save those energy intensive tasks for when they’ll have the least impact on the planet.

It’s powered by carbonintensity.org.uk, the same carbon intensity forecasting tool built by National Grid ESO, The Environmental Defense Fund Europe, The University of Oxford and WWF that powers the Green Light Signal

The skill pulls from the carbon intensity forecast to let you know when the electricity in your home will be cleanest over the next 48 hours, to help you plan your electricity usage and understand the progress being made in the fight against climate change.

Simply ask your voice assistant "Open National Grid" and it will tell you the best times to plug in, as well as providing you with information about the zero carbon sources that are helping to keep the lights on.

You can request for your voice assistant to:

  • open National Grid

  • ask National Grid when to plug in

  • ask National Grid for the fact of the day.

Voice assistant skill - young family

What is carbon intensity?

Carbon intensity is a measure of CO2 emissions per unit of electricity consumed. When it's low or very low it suggests that renewable and/or nuclear energy is playing a key role in the energy mix that powers your home. This is happening more as the electricity system is transformed: In the last seven years we have decarbonised Great Britain’s electricity system by 66%, connecting people to more green and clean energy sources.

Our digital voice assistant skill uses carbon intensity to determine the best times to use energy, based on your location – meaning the power coming into your home is predicted to be cleaner at that time compared to other times.

How do I add the National Grid voice assistant skill to my device?

Adding the skill to your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant is easy and takes just a few minutes. Check out the simple instructions in the setup section below to get started.

Instructions for setting up the skill:

For Alexa

Voice Assistant for Alexa

  • In the app, tap the menu icon labelled ‘more’ at the bottom-right of the screen

  • Select Skills & Games

  • Tap the magnifying glass to search for the ‘National Grid’ skill

  • Select the skill and tap ‘enable to use’

  • To find out the best time to use electricity in your area, ask Alexa 'Open National Grid'

For Google Assistant

Voice Assistant for Google

  • Open the Google Home app

  • At the top right, tap your account

  • Verify that the google account shown is the one linked to your speaker or display

  • In search, look for the ‘National Grid’ voice skill

  • Once you've found it, click 'enable'

  • To find out the best time to use electricity in your area, ask your Google Assistant to 'Open National Grid

High energy inspiration

Want to feel positive about the energy you’re using? Here are some fun ideas about what you can do when your voice assistant tells you that you it’s the best time to plug in.

  • Stream: Stream a film or play a game online

  • Cook: Turn up the heat on your electric hob and cook up a storm

  • Heat: Feel good that your kettle or electric boiler is heating up with clean energy

  • Clean: Can you get all your laundry, tumble drying and vacuuming done before the carbon intensity changes?

  • Create: Make music, movies, social filters, or digital art whilst the carbon intensity is low

  • Charge: Plug in your electric vehicle

Because together we can reach net zero.

#PowerOfAll #WhenToPlugIn

Get the 'WhenToPlugIn' mobile app

Our new app tells you the best times of day to ‘plug in’, so you can make smarter energy choices at home; saving those energy intensive tasks for when they’ll have the least impact on the planet.

Discover the app

Frequently Asked Questions

What will the National Grid voice assistant skill tell me?

This voice skill has been developed to help everyone in Great Britain take advantage of zero-carbon energy. The skill will tell you the best time to use electricity by searching for the lowest possible carbon intensity time periods in your region. It will also tell you about the mix of zero carbon energy sources that sit behind the ‘when to plug in’ recommendation and serve up a series of fun facts so you can learn more about the amazing transformation of the electricity system that is currently underway.

What is zero carbon energy?

Zero carbon energy produces no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. It is generated from renewable sources including onshore wind, offshore wind, solar and water, as well as from nuclear power stations. While it's not a renewable energy source, nuclear is a ‘clean’ source of energy as it produces no carbon dioxide emissions or greenhouse gases of any kind and so produces electricity with a low carbon intensity. The voice skill will encourage you to plug in to take advantage of this.

How does the carbon intensity forecast work?

The voice assistant is powered by carbonintensity.org.uk, a carbon intensity forecasting tool built by National Grid ESO, The Environmental Defense Fund Europe, The University of Oxford, and WWF.

The API uses machine learning and sophisticated power system modelling to forecast the carbon intensity and electricity generation mix for Great Britain.

It pulls data from large power stations, wind and solar generation, and the electricity we bring in from Europe via interconnectors that run under the sea, and balances that with electricity demand from consumers, businesses, and industries.

What are the factors that impact carbon intensity and the amount of zero carbon energy sources in my local or national mix?

Carbon intensity varies by hour, day, and season due to changes in both electricity supply and demand. The forecast is based on an AI that predicts weather patterns to make sure energy providers can manage where we are getting our energy from and how much is needed.

It isn’t only the weather in Great Britain that can affect the forecast, but also the weather in countries across Europe such as France where we share electricity via interconnectors. The amount we can bring in from these areas depends on the conditions that drive up energy demand in those places, e.g. cold and wet weather.

Won’t the voice assistant skill just tell me to plug in in the middle of the night and use off peak electricity hours?

Great Britain continues to draw more and more power from zero carbon sources, meaning that there are ever-increasing opportunities during the day for people to use electricity with a low-carbon intensity – not just at night. 

Will it make a difference if I plug in when the voice assistant tells me to?

In short, yes! Every green action helps and net zero won’t be possible without everyone’s input, but the biggest impact of all comes from system transformation. The energy sector has undergone huge change over the last decade or so. There has been a massive shift from using coal to generate electricity – which resulted in lots of carbon dioxide emissions as the coal was burned – to using ‘clean’ forms of generation such as renewable wind and solar power.

However, there is much more that needs to be done, because transforming Great Britain’s energy system will enable other sectors such as transport and construction to reduce their emissions also. Here are some examples of significant changes needed over the next decade:

  • Increase capacity for clean electricity generation by quadrupling offshore wind generation by 2030, to ensure we can meet growing demand from homes, businesses and transport with low carbon supply.

  • Reinforce the electricity network so it is ready for the predicted rapid growth in electric vehicles and in low-carbon heating systems, such as heat pumps.

  • Develop supply and demand of hydrogen gas, which is a cleaner fuel type, especially with industrial users.

  • Develop and implement technology to capture carbon emissions, particularly from gas powered electricity generation and industrial processes.

  • Increase energy efficiency measures to make homes more insulated and to reduce wasted energy.

As a nation, we are making excellent progress and we have the technology and know-how to deliver what needs to be done. Everyone – from Government, to the energy regulator Ofgem, to businesses and individuals – has an important role to play in making it happen.

If everyone used electricity when the voice assistant said to plug in, what impact could that have?

Our calculations show that if one million Brits used the app and switched to using their washing machine when the electricity in their area was produced by cleaner energy sources, we could collectively help save 76,650 tonnes of CO2 each year: equivalent of taking a whopping 36,500 cars off the road. By using tumble dryers at cleaner times, we could see a huge 164,250 tonnes of carbon saved, which is the equivalent to taking more than 78,000 cars off the road.

These statistics are calculated per number of people using the appliances, the frequency of use and the average power rating to work out the potential amount of CO2 emissions reduced if moving to the lowest emissions hours (100g/kWh CO2).