Did you know this about electricity at Christmas?


HAVE you ever wondered what is the dominant energy source as we light up our Christmas trees or which year has been our greenest Christmas?

National Grid ESO shares with us everything you have ever wanted to know about electricity at Christmas.

One could expect Christmas to be one of the busiest days in terms of electricity usage but the reality is quite the opposite.

The cause for the lower demand is simple – over the festive period schools, as well as a number of offices, shops and factories are closed.

In terms of energy sources, last Christmas zero carbon sources generated 35% of electricity.

If the weather remains mild and blustery, ESO expects similar figures for this festive season.

Roisin Quinn, Head of National Control at National Grid ESO commented on the Brits’ festive energy usage:

“The engineers in our control work 24/7 to ensure a constant supply of electricity – and Christmas Day is no different.

“If it’s mild and blustery then renewable sources will make up a significant proportion of the electricity used to cook turkeys and light up trees – perhaps even a record level.

“These Christmas trends are an example of how the electricity system is changing. This year has been the greenest year on record for GB electricity, with the longest ever period of coal free electricity and record levels of wind and solar generation too.”

Back in 2009, 23% percent of Christmas Day electricity was generated by coal, when last year this figure was less than 4%.

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’.

At Christmas, the normal pattern of electricity use is different to normal, when the electricity demand usually rises when people go to work and school.

On Christmas Day, the peak occurs earlier, as we switch on our ovens at lunchtime and cook our special Christmas feast.

For example, on Christmas Day 2018 peak demand was for 36.6GW of electricity at 1.30pm.

Another time of higher demand is the TV pickup, an 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.

Ms Quinn explained: “Demand for electricity is usually low but we do get an insight into the nation’s habits, with a spike as ovens switch on for the festive feast and a drop as we all sit down to watch our favourite TV shows.

“Many people will be watching the weather hoping for a white Christmas and it has an impact on electricity too.”

Last Christmas the biggest pickup was BBC One’s Call the Midwife; for 380MW, the equivalent of 190,000 kettles boiling at the same time.

The largest ever Christmas Day pick up 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.

Miss Quinn added: “In April we announced our ambition to be able to operate the GB electricity system carbon free by 2025 – we look forward to more milestones next year.”