The energy consumption in the UK during lockdown
First of all, we would like to start this post by asking how you are doing! We hope that you and your loved ones stayed safe and well during the lockdown and are continuing to be well as we begin our return to normalcy!
As the UK begins to slowly ease out of lockdown now is the perfect time for some reflection. If you were unaware, UK energy consumption during lockdown decreased quite significantly, and with it so did the carbon intensity of the energy mix. We had a green lockdown!
This post will discuss how and why that happened and what impact the COVID-19 lockdown had on the energy industry in the UK and Europe.
How did the demand for energy decrease?
It is true! Despite the fact that the public were confined to their homes during the peak of the lockdown UK energy consumption during lockdown decreased. In fact, sources have shown that after Boris Johnson announced the lockdown on Monday 23rd March there was an immediate 5-10% decrease in electrical demand.
How did this happen exactly? Well, with schools, offices, pubs, factories all closed the typical morning demand or electricity peak was completely flattened. There were less morning showers, less cups of tea and no one was up early enough needing a light on.
Though you would be right in thinking that, with everyone at home all day, that domestic consumption would greatly increase because it certainly did. However, this spike in domestic electricity consumption was cancelled out by the much larger decrease in industrial consumption.
Other than the decrease in industry consumption the overall pattern of energy demand and consumption across the UK did not change all too drastically. The morning demand was just later in the morning as people started their day later and the evenings were mostly the same. So UK energy consumption during lockdown did not change too drastically and in fact decreased overall.
What impact has the lockdown had on the energy industry?
Like most industries across the world, COVID-19 has played havoc with the energy industry. In the UK, the entire electricity system has become much harder to manage. Essentially, the immediate decrease made balancing the entire system incredibly difficult, especially when taking interconnectors into the situation. If the system does not maintain a perfectly balanced alignment there could be a risk of blackouts.
The decrease in energy demand also led to some unfamiliar cases for energy prices within the energy market. Europe and the UK became oversupplied by electricity during lockdown causing negative electricity prices. Once upon a time negative prices were a relatively rare occurrence in energy markets, but the pandemic has caused these prices to become part of the norm, at least for Germany, Britain, and other countries in the EU.
Focusing more on the positives, the measures put in place to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in the UK have had a significant effect on the rate in which our energy system has decarbonised. Demand being lessened has meant that coal and gas power stations have and can be turned down and even taken offline completely!
But we don’t really know how long these measures will last and how drastic the bounce back will be when the demand rapidly increases. Depending on how severe the energy demand rebound is the UK may find the recent efforts in reducing carbon intensity are reversed.
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