Posted: 27 November 2014
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Let it glow…

Does transforming the neighbourhood into a glittering winter wonderland put too much pressure on National Grid? Jeremy Caplin, energy forecasting manager, shines light on the festive topic.

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Let it glow…

Let it glow…

There will be a potential electricity demand of around 750 million watts (750 MW) this Christmas.

"People should go ahead and enjoy the festive lights. They can rest assured they aren’t putting National Grid under undue pressure..."

Jeremy Caplin, energy forecasting manager.

Insight:

Peak viewing demand

1. Royal Variety Performance (1977) – 1400 MW
2. Sports Personality of the Year (1982/1983) – 700 MW
3. Live Aid (1985) – 2000 MW
4. Morecambe and Wise (1993) – 1100 MW
5. Coronation Street Christmas Special (1995) – 700 MW.

Source: National Grid.

Today many villages and towns across the UK will switch on their lights for the beginning of the festive season. And for many people the annual tradition – and competition – of putting up and turning on their own Christmas lights begins.

While some people are content with a sprinkle of fairy lights on the tree in the living room, others go to great effort and expense to create ever more elaborate light displays outside their homes each year to delight family and neighbours.

But does transforming the neighbourhood into a glittering winter wonderland put too much pressure on National Grid?

“The simple answer is that there probably is an effect, but it’s quite small, particularly now that most people will be using low-energy light bulbs to cut the cost of their own energy bills,” said Jeremy Caplin, energy forecasting manager.

There are around 22million households in Great Britain, around 15million of which will have a Christmas tree. At an average of around 50W per set of lights, this means a potential electricity demand of around 750 million watts (750 MW).

This demand from the fairy lights will be partially offset by people turning down their other lights in order to see the tree lights, so the net impact is probably around half, or approximately 400 MW.

“Compare this with a national peak demand last year of around 53,000 MW, and 55,000 MW the year before, and you can see the impact from Christmas lights is relatively small,” he added.

“Electricity demand over Christmas actually tends to be quite low, as a lot of industry and commercial buildings are shut down. The annual peak demand tends to come in the first couple of weeks of December, before the schools break up, although this will obviously depend on the weather each year.”

Jeremy said that, in the past, managing the electricity supply at National Grid was a very different matter. When there were only three television channels and no ‘play again’, certain seasonal TV favourites placed great demands on the electricity supply, such as Morecambe and Wise, the Royal Variety Performance and soap opera Christmas specials.

“People should go ahead and enjoy the festive lights. They can rest assured they aren’t putting National Grid under undue pressure, and that our colleagues will be working throughout Christmas to make sure everyone can enjoy the holidays.”

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