As we enter the new camping season, avid outdoor enthusiasts in motorhomes, caravans, campervans and tents across the UK find themselves facing a new twist to their touring experience – pay-as-you-go electricity points on campsite pitches.

This change has raised a mix of curiosity and anxiety for many, as they grapple with the idea of adapting to a different system for accessing electricity during their outdoor escapades.

Imagine the scene – you’ve arrived at one of the best campervan sites in the UK, the excitement of setting up your home for the night is at bursting point, and the anticipation of a serene night under the stars with your favourite glass of something is imminent. However, this time, there’s an added complication, a change to the usual proceedings – you have to tap and pay for your electricity.

For cautious campers, this shift prompts a series of questions and concerns about just how it will impact their experience. But why are many sites already installing this new system?

Instructions for pay-as-you-go
Providing clear instructions for use is a key aspect of managing the switch to pay-as-you-go

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jules, owner of the Petruth Paddocks campsite near Cheddar, in North Somerset. Jules has spent a small fortune (around £30,000) upgrading his site facilities to include 70 electric pitches with a pay-as-you-go system.

His electricity bill was set to increase £30,000 to an eyewatering £120,000 per year. This was due mainly to rising supply costs, but also to the changing behaviour of visitors.

It seems our consumption of electricity on campsites is booming. The prime suspects are folks recharging their electric car on arrival, but this isn’t the whole story.

Plugging in power lead to electricity point
First, plug in your power lead to the electricity point

Our motorhomes and camping gear feature more electrical items than ever. Powerful motorhome heating systems, small electricals that need recharging, heaters to keep the best motorhome awnings warm, and more. The end result is an electricity meter that can be spinning so fast, it looks as though it’s trying to spin off the wall!

RFID card
Then use the preloaded RFID card to transfer credit, which is displayed on the screen

The benefits of pay-as-you-go electricity on campsite pitches

But the benefits of pay-as-you-go electricity are not all on the side of the campsite owner:

  • Budget-friendly: Paying for electricity as we consume it means campers have control over our power usage and expenses. This system allows us to pay only for the electricity we consume, promoting a way of motorhoming on more of a budget.
  • Flexibility: Campers now have the flexibility to choose whether or not we need electricity during our stay. Those who prefer a more rustic experience, without electronic devices, can opt out and save on costs.
  • Environmental impact: With the ability to monitor and manage our energy consumption,  I believe we will become more conscious of our environmental footprint. This new approach encourages responsible energy use, aligning with the broader push for sustainable camping. In fact, Jules at Petruth Paddocks says that since the installation of his system in 2022, he has seen customer consumption drop by one-third.

The concerns of pay-as-you-go electricity on campsite pitches

As with any changes to long-standing systems, there are also a few concerns to consider:

  • Technical hurdles: Some campers might worry about the technical aspects of the pay-as-you-go system. Will you struggle to navigate the new payment process? What happens if the system malfunctions? People fear potential disruptions to their essential electrical needs, such as charging devices or powering camping gear.
  • Unforeseen expenses: While cost control is a touted benefit of the new system, some might be anxious about unexpected expenses.  If you underestimate your electricity needs or forget to monitor your usage, you could find yourself needing to top up more frequently than anticipated, potentially leading to additional costs. And of course, the big question is, will the campsite bring down the cost of a pitch if they are charging separately for electricity? This remains to be seen.
  • Impact on camping culture: For many of us, part of the allure of camping lies in a disconnection from the modern, fast-paced world. Introducing pay-as-you-go electricity points might feel like an intrusion, disrupting the simplicity and the escape that camping traditionally offers.

Navigating the transition

There are lots of variants in the technology and how it operates. At Petruth Paddocks, for example, you preload an RFID card with credit, which you buy at reception. You tap this on the electric point to transfer the credit, which is displayed on the screen. It then counts down rather than up, like a fuel pump.

Petruth preloads your card with £3 on arrival, so you typically have the first night’s electricity covered. This speeds up check-in at reception, reducing queues and waiting times.

It’s a clever system that has generated positive feedback from campsite guests, with the general opinion being that the procedure is fair. After all, if one camper in a tent is only charging an iPhone and their neighbour in a motorhome is running a 3kW heating system, it wouldn’t seem equitable that they are paying the same amount for electricity as part of their pitch fee.

Campsite operators can ease the transition for their guests by providing clear and user-friendly instructions on how to use the pay-as-you-go system. Detailed signage, online guides and on-site assistance can help alleviate concerns related to technical hurdles, ensuring campers feel confident in managing their electricity.

Furthermore, campsite management should communicate the benefits of the new system. Emphasising the cost savings, environmental considerations and freedom to choose can help sway opinions toward embracing the change, rather than fearing it.

My final thoughts…

Although the introduction of pay-as-you-go electricity points on campsites might initially raise concerns among campers, the shift brings tangible benefits, such as cost control and environmental consciousness.

As we adapt to this new approach, campsite operators have a vital role in ensuring a smooth transition, addressing concerns and highlighting the positive aspects of this evolving experience.

So as you embark on your next adventure, embrace the change, charge responsibly, and revel in the beauty of the great outdoors.

You can find out more about me and listen to my podcast at

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