Football’s coming home…

As the World Cup Finals continue in Russia, the UK’s network plans for the inevitable power spikes. In fact, England has already scored!

The technical term is ‘TV pick-ups’, but whatever you call it – ‘the half-time kettle effect’, or ‘tea-time power boosts’ – the result is the same. 

As the whistle blows for half or full-time in a football match half way round the world, UK consumers reach for the tea bags – or the coffee capsules – open the fridge for another cold drink, or turn on the lights to head for a ‘comfort break’. 

England weren’t in action at the Finals until day four, when they kicked-off at 19.00 on Monday 18th June against Tunisia.  By half time, the score was 1-1 and an average of 13.7m people were watching the game.

By full time, that number had reached 18.3m – the most viewed TV programme so far this year - as England snatched a 2-1 victory in extra time. 

Even more electric

As ever, the National Grid could have faced penalties had it not planned for the latest ‘TV pick-up’.  But even then, the numbers were higher than predicted.  The expectation was a 500Mw surge.  In fact, the spike hit 600Mw.

While the surge may have been high, it was nowhere near the largest ‘TV pick-ups’ so far recorded.  Top of the table for any TV-related energy spike remains the dramatic England v Germany World Cup Semi-final penalty shoot-out in 1990 when demand hit 2,800Mw.  In fact, the first three record TV pick-ups are football-induced, with an episode of BBC soap Eastenders in April 2001 fourth in the table at 2,290Mw.

On-demand, off the grid

While TV pick-ups still continue to challenge energy supply and distribution planners, they are becoming a rarer phenomenon.  Noted by the likes of the Financial Times back in 2016, the exponential increase in on-demand or subscription and catch-up TV has meant fewer consumers are watching live TV programmes. 

That said, with perhaps – ironically - less expectation of England’s footballers in this World Cup than any since 1966, National Grid is still anticipating a TV pick-up of around 2000Mw should England reach the Final. Who knows? Getting it right and keeping the lights on could mean celebrations all round.