As the continent becomes gripped by Euro football fever, our forecast team prepare their predictions for peak demand.
As the European Football Championships get under way, National Grid’s forecasting team is gearing up with some match predictions of their own.
Not the score that is, but predictions for the surge in demand at half-time and full-time as viewers dash to put the kettle on to relieve the tension with a calming cup of tea or open the fridge to grab a cooling drink.
Big sporting events are one of the few times that viewers in Great Britain all sit down at the same time, and consequently get up at the same time, to do very similar things. Because of that, National Grid has to be prepared to keep the electricity system in balance. (Northern Ireland is also taking part, but looks after its own electricity balancing).
The forecasting team has been preparing for some time already, looking at England’s and Wales’ fixtures in the first round to check the times when demand is going to soar. They have also been looking back at the records to try and predict what the likely demand will be.
“For England’s match against Russia we’re expecting the surge to peak at 800 megawatts (MW) at half-time and 500 MW at full-time,” said Energy Forecasting Manager Jeremy Caplin. “For Wales versus Slovakia it’s 500 MW at half-time and 250 MW at full-time.
“The biggest demand we’re expecting in the first round is for the England v Wales match with a peak of 1100 MW at half time and 900 MW at full-time. That will be interesting as it’s a 2pm kick-off so we don’t know if people will have taken the time off to watch at home or try to catch the game at work.”
As the tournament progresses Jeremy and the team will be keeping an anxious eye on how England and Wales do. “If our home teams go further in the tournament we could see demand surge to two gigawatts (2000 MW),” he added.
And then of course, there is the dreaded penalty shootout. “If a match goes to penalties, predicting when the surge will come is very difficult because you don’t know exactly when it will finish. If it comes to it, a control engineer will be sitting there watching the match and ready to give the word to power stations to get ready.”
Predicting demand is a science with many different factors taken into account. There are the records of previous tournaments, going back to the 1966 World Cup, the weather, the time of day and changes in technology all having to be considered – the increased use of low energy lightbulbs has had a significant impact on demand.
And it isn’t only kettles and fridge door lights that push up electricity demand; with millions of people taking the opportunity to go to the toilet, the sudden demand for water as all those toilets flush activates pumps at waterworks to keep the water pressure up.
“A lot of information feeds into our forecasts so we have a pretty good idea what will happen and we can give the control room all the information they need to handle any situation,” said Jeremy.
Thinking ahead is also important in making sure demand is met at least cost. “We use the plants that are offering the best price so we are meeting demand as economically as possible. The more accurate prediction we can provide to the plants providing the power, the cheaper we can get the energy.”