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How will the Olympics affect your energy use?

We’ve all heard stories about peaks in electricity demand during soap opera ad breaks, when everyone pops out to put the kettle on. But how much can demand vary? I spoke to the National Grid to find out.

This morning, one of my colleagues told me there were significant ups and downs in electricity demand when Phil Mitchell was getting shot in Eastenders – no one was boiling kettles or doing the vacuuming because they were all glued to the telly.

But is that actually true? I wondered whether big events, such as the Olympics, could have a real effect on your household energy use. And if so, are they going up or down? The National Grid is responsible for managing these peaks and troughs in demand, so I got in touch to ask if they had any figures around the biggest night of the TV calendar this year – the Olympic opening ceremony.

Ups, downs and excitement

I realised I was actually quite ignorant about how this stuff works – I assumed there would be a huge peak in demand as everyone switched their tellies on for the opening ceremony on Friday. But it turns out I was wrong!

Luckily, the National Grid has a whole team of expert electricity demand forecasters whose job it is to predict what will happen when these huge events are aired. Here’s what they told me:

‘Our expert energy forecasters predicted that during the Isles of Wonder [the ceremony’s opening music], electricity demand would be lower than normally expected, as families gathered round their TV sets instead of pursuing their usual activities. But as the parade of athletes began, they forecasted that demands would be higher than normal as viewers stayed up, glued to their seats to watch the parade, the arrival of the torch, the lighting of the cauldron and the firework display.

‘In the end, as the Queen arrived, demand during the show was up to 1800MW (Megawatts) lower than would normally be expected; and afterwards, it was up to 1600MW higher than normal as the cauldron was lit.

‘A demand reduction of 1800MW is equal to not needing the electricity to supply a city almost the size of Liverpool. And a demand increase of 1600MW is the equivalent of needing enough extra power to supply a city the size of Norwich.’

So basically, demand for energy was low during the first part of the ceremony, as people abandoned their usual activities to watch the drama unfold. However, later on – when people would usually have been in bed – demand was much higher. Instead of switching the lights off, we stayed up.

The ups and downs of your energy usage

It made me wonder – as I’m not normally an avid telly-watcher, what will happen to my own electricity use during the Olympics? I’ve already found myself watching more TV than normal – whether it’s keeping an eye on the rowing or listening to the race commentary.

But as I tend not to sit in front of the TV for long periods, I suspect that as the nation’s demand goes down, my own energy use will go up. I’ll be doing the same things as before (vacuuming, ironing, making endless cups of coffee) just with the added boost of having the TV on in the background.

Do you think that your energy use will change much during the Olympics? Will you spending more time in front of the TV, or roughly the same as before?

AndrewRH says:
1 August 2012

My iPad charger is being used a lot, at night, but the power to the broadband modem is constant. 🙂

I do not watch the Olympic Games on TV at all – I could not afford a ticket – and found the majority of the “new build” will not help the residents – The housing is not as promised for local residents – but for richer people who can afford the exorbitant mortgages – so rents will rise higher – already at an astonishing £1000 plus a month.- try affording that on Job Seekers Allowance or State Pension. So why should it interest me at all – The 1948 one did – as it was full of hope – but no TV then. So I watch the news and take in the so called “high lights” I have suffered seven years of disruption – the last four years of chaos – especially the lack of parking – due to the “rebuilding” – I live close to the stadium

I might watch the highlights on iPlayer but I am certainly not going to watch live coverage, so I don’t think my use of energy will change.

I hate large events, hero worship, high prices and cheating, and the Olympics has the lot. I would rather watch a school sports day.

I’m just not interested in sport, full stop.. Thus I will be watching just as little telly as normal during the games, and my Radio (tuned to Radio 4, so I get the hourly news and plenty of chance to hear who has cheated, who has been accused of cheating, who is a bad loser, etc.) is just on from when I get up (about 6 a.m.) to when I go to bed (about 1:00 a.m.) as normal.

I have been doing a little more Hoovering lately as my poor old cat died and she was frightened silly of the Hoover, so I tended only to Hoover when she was in eth garden, i.e. in nice weather. My new cat is not fazed by the Hoover at all, so I use it more often …. but my 1956 Hoover Junior only uses 250 watts of electricity, unlike today’s energy-guzzling monstrosities that don’t even pick up the muck anyway, so I doubt my increased cleaning will worry the electricity company much (except in so far as I create marginally less money for the Managing Director’s new Yacht fund by using less than most people.)

All that aside, I am well aware that the utilities have forecasters and a good thing they do since most households use (or waste) vast amounts of power and do sit glued to the goggle-box for the Y-factor and West-enders and to see t’old Queen (that’s Elizabeth, not the latest Drag act on Britain needs some talent).

Just in case there is the usual brigade of humour-deficient readers looking at this, all the above is tongue-in-cheek: it’s true that I don’t conform to the stereotypes but I bear no grudge against those who do: each to their own – so long as they can afford it.

How very sad for anyone to know how much power their vacuum cleaner uses*. It would be more useful to learn who won the silver medal for the men’s 100 metre long jump to help win a pub quiz.

I’m not interested in sport either and look forward to life getting back to normal after the Olympics. I have noticed a drop in the number of evening calls from friends, presumably because they are glued to the TV.

*From memory, my Miele vacuum cleaner uses about 960 watts on the normal power setting. 🙂

Sophie Gilbert says:
2 August 2012

What Olympics?

Well if you guys aren’t watching the Olympics, you are truly missing out! Six Team GB golds today, with three in the athletics. History was made, it was incredibly exciting and the whole country is proud. You get the feeling that just getting involved in this Games and watching it extends your life somewhat (even if I am immobile watching it on TV – I think I’ve saved quite a bit of electricity!).

Third on the medal table with 14 golds, and 29 medals overall. It truly is a magical event and if you’re still not watching it – turn the telly on!

I watch the NEWS – this contains ad infinitum re-runs of Olympic Games _ So I know the results. But the topic was “How will the Olympics affect your energy use?”

And the answer is for me – Not at all – I do not watch and am not interested in the 2012 Olympic Games except how badly it has affected my daily life for the last SEVEN years – I live close to the Stadium.

Rodney says:
16 August 2012

I am sick sick sick of the Olympics
I have not my bought as paper for the last month as it is mainly Olympics
I normally watch the BBC news at 6 O’clock but have been turning it of “why” 45 minutes of Olympics 15 minutes news.
It seems the BBC decamped on mass to the Olympics because even non Olympic items came from the stadium, when we did go back to the studio there were faces I had not seen before, probably because they were the only ones left.
I don’t mind knowing who won what but not to be force fed it. Those that want to know buy a special dedicated paper or go to a dedicated TV channel but leave the rest of us alone.
So I suppose my energy consumption has gone down

Good grief, get a life all you Olympic knockers it was a wonderful expression of Can do and Human endeavour. Not just the Athletes from all over the World but also the many Volunteers.
The behind the headline stories were inspiring and it was great fun to watch.

Of course the various venues will be used. Of course the housing will give someone a home.

Oh dear parking a bit awkward for a while……Lets all sit and moan !

Seven years – three years evicting businesses from the “park ” then four years of 1000s of workers using the existing parking spaces so residents couldn’t – that is not a bit of a parking problem – it was a disaster for residents. I live there.

How would you like it if you couldn’t shop or park locally FOR FOUR YEARS??????????? You’d soon change your tune.

[Hi Richard, please don’t write in all caps. Thanks, mods.]

jaycine, essex says:
17 August 2012

Richard. I did live there. My dad still does.

I grew up going to the speedway track that is now the media centre.

I worked by the basketball hall.

My last contact with the area [after moving away] was when my husband returned his uniform to a site opposite the ‘new’ stadium. Only a few years after this had been rebuilt at vast cost, it was standing derelict and destroyed, the only recognisable thing being the hare-rail from the dog track – it reduced me to tears. Where was the stadium and leisure park that we’d been promised 30 years ago when I was a teenager??

Now it’s there, and I’m grateful. It’s a long overdue promise fulfilled, and I only hope that the venues that are opening to the public are supported by locals and visitors alike, rather than denigrated and destroyed.

You all miss the point. The Olympic event reduced energy use and did a little to save the planet. Yet another reason to say, “What a great event”.

Sorry for the party poopers – get a life or sit in the dark.

Not sure the planet’s breathing a sigh of relief after all those air miles and the energy consumed in putting up all the temporary structures. Need some new events like treadmill electricity generation and there must be a way of harnessing the power of the men’s 100metres!

John, I didn’t think about that. Good thing Team GB has great sailers, they can sail the team accross the Atlantic to the Rio Olympics.

Maybe all the participant air miles will be saved by tourists avoiding Rio during the next Olympics as they did for the London Olympics.

As the former Labour leader of the Welsh Assembly said – Bring on global warming. That will reduce the human population by knocking out all the ‘can’t do’ couch potatoes.

Snowdin says:
16 August 2012

I think our energy use increased significantly since we hardly went out during the Olympics, sustained by lots of tea and coffee, and we were totally enthralled by the Games. My 91 year old father up North can hardly stop talking about all the events despite his relative loss of recent memory. What a brilliant pulsating emotionally exhausting two weeks and the thrill of a lifetime, as scintillating as the 66 World Cup which I watched as a spectator at Wembley. Wow!!!
I also put the time to good use shredding my accounts from 1996 to 2003 and cleaning out my overstuffed filing cabinet so if I die, ecstatic, tomorrow the job of clearing up will be easier for the kids.

Your efforts with the shredder were probably just time-shift so you don’t need to feel guilty about that particular use of energy – you were going to do it anyway eventually.

The only conclusion anyone could reach is there are some seriously sad bitter people responding to your invite.

No. Some of us have a sense of humour and others take us too seriously. 🙂

I don’t have a TV and don’t want one. The information I want comes on the radio or online and I waste far less time.

jaycine, essex says:
17 August 2012

My power useage stayed the same, as hubby has TV on from waking to sleeping regardless. What did change was my viewing. I know I watched a lot more TV than I ever do,as for me it’s usually only ‘background’.

However I cannot help wondering about whether the ‘cheerfulness/feel good factor’ which has been reported as sweeping the country, is due to the lack of negitive news from papers/news bulletins.

This seems to happen at Jubilee/royal wedding/olympics – so maybe the saturation coverage of the games has a positive side.

Roll on the paralympics, and then whilst we all wait for the Glasgow Commonwealth games in 2014, please can we add an ‘and finally’ good/funny news item to the end of all news broadcasts!

I dont think the games changed my usage habits as these days i use the pause button when i want to do other things and catch up when there are boring bits or adverts. a very handy button that.