Let’s not pretend … we’re all energy geeks here. We know that you’re so devoted to electricity that the first thing you think about on Christmas Day is ‘Gosh, I wonder how busy National Grid is’.
So, National Grid ESO’s gift to you are the answers to all your burning questions – so you can finally detach from work, maybe watch your kids opening their stocking and relax, assured you have all the answers at your fingertips.
Roisin Quinn, ESO’s head of National Control, explains all about Christmas Day electricity in this festive Q&A.
When is peak demand for electricity on Christmas Day?
On Christmas Day the peak occurs earlier, at lunchtime, as we switch on our ovens and cook our special Christmas feast. For example, on Christmas Day 2018, peak demand was for 36.6GW of electricity at 1:30pm.
How does Christmas telly affect electricity demand?
Like many of us, the forecasters in our control room will be looking closely at the TV schedules for Christmas Day – not necessarily to see what to watch, but assessing which programmes will get the highest number of viewers and therefore cause the highest TV pickup.
TV pickup is the increase in demand for electricity at the end of popular TV programmes, when we get off the sofa as one and boil the kettle or open the fridge.
Last Christmas, the biggest pickup was BBC One’s Call the Midwife with 380MW; the equivalent of 190,000 kettles boiling at the same time. The largest ever Christmas Day pickup was in 1996, after an episode of Only Fools and Horses, measuring 1,340 megawatts. The same amount of electricity could have baked 30 million mince pies!
Is it a busier day than usual for the National Grid ESO control room?
Christmas day is actually a day when electricity use is at one of its lowest points. Why? The cause for the lower demand during Christmas is simple … over the festive period, schools, as well as a number of offices, shops and factories, are closed.
Will Christmas be green?
Just like the overall electricity system is changing, Christmas is changing too. Back in 2009, 23% percent of Christmas Day electricity was generated by coal – last year it was less than 4%. And it’s renewable or low-carbon sources that are making up the difference.
Festive electricity generated by wind power has risen from 0.3% in 2008 to 11% in 2018. 2016 was the greenest Christmas to date, with weather conditions and market factors meaning the last two were slightly ‘higher carbon’. Will 2019 be the greenest yet?