Heating our ovens for Christmas turkey and all the trimmings, switching on the Christmas tree lights and settling down for some seasonal TV viewing. Find out all about our nationwide Christmas Day electricity habits – and how they compare to previous years.
The control room of the National Grid ESO, the electricity system operator for Great Britain, balances the grid second by second – so the engineers have a unique insight into the nation’s Christmas habits and how they affect electricity demand.
Here’s what they’ve discovered…
1. Christmas Day is the only day of the year when demand for electricity doesn’t peak at teatime. Demand picks up all morning until lunchtime and peaks at 1.30pm, when many of us are serving our turkey lunch. It then drops off throughout the day as we laze in front of the TV.
2. Christmas Day is usually one of the lowest demand days of the year, as shops, factories, schools, offices and many pubs are all closed. Peak demand for Christmas Day 2019 (see the chart below) was 33.3GW. This compared to a 2019 high of 46GW in November. Demand has been reducing each year due to the ever-growing efficiency of appliances.
3. The parents among you won't be surprised that we still see a 5am demand pick up curve on Christmas Day. Excited children can’t wait to open their stockings and, of course, turkeys have to go in the oven hours before lunch time.
4. The largest Christmas Day TV pick up in recent times was a huge 1,340MW in 1996, for the Only Fools and Horses Christmas special. Remember those Batman and Robin outfits in the Heroes & Villains special?
5. We rarely see a Christmas TV pick up higher than 400MW these days, due to on demand TV. This year there may be a small pick-up for the Queens Speech.
6. 2016 was the greenest Christmas Day ever, due to mild and windy weather. As we continue to operate a cleaner electricity system, we could see a new record breaker in 2020.
7. Only 1.8% of festive electricity came from coal generation last year. 2020 could be the first coal-free Christmas year – unless Santa leaves some for naughty boys and girls.
8. 14.1% of all 2019 Christmas Day electricity came from wind power. That’s an impressive surge from a mere 0.3% in 2008, as renewables play an ever increasing role in electricity generation.
9. Christmas lights don’t crash the grid. As lights all tend to come on at the same time and then stay on (rather than being switched on and off at different times) their impact on overall demand for electricity is negligible.
10. Planning to head out for a Boxing Day walk? Did you know it’s usually the lowest demand day of the year? That’s because as a Bank Holiday many businesses are still closed, but more of us are out of the house compared to Christmas Day.
Rob Rome, Head of National Control at National Grid ESO, adds: “The engineers in our control room work 24/7 to keep the grid in balance and Christmas is no different, with teams working throughout to ensure safe, secure and reliable electricity.
“Demand for electricity is usually low on Christmas Day and habits tend to be the same every year – even more so now that we have on demand TV, which makes TV pick-ups fewer and far between.
“Many people will be watching the weather, hoping for a White Christmas, and that has an impact on electricity too. If it’s mild and blustery renewable sources will make up a significant proportion of the electricity used to cook turkeys and light up trees – perhaps even a record level. If it’s cold demand will be a little higher, but nothing compared to a standard weekday.
“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. We’re hoping that this Christmas Day will be the greenest on record too!”