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Energy demand hits record low levels over sunny bank holiday weekend

Energy demand fell to just 24.36GW on 11 April.

Energy demand fell to just 24.36GW on 11 April.

Energy demand reached a new low in the UK over the bank holiday, setting two new records according to Drax Electric Insights.

On Saturday 11 April, energy demand fell to just 24.36GW, a new record. This beat the previous level set on 7 August 2016 of 24.7GW.

However, this record was quickly beaten as on Sunday 12, demand fell to just 24.18GW.

Tim Dixon, wholesale team lead at Cornwall Insight, explained that a combination of COVID-19 and the Easter bank holiday weekend had “weighed significantly on demand".

“This was coupled with the sunny weather that was experienced over the Easter weekend, which lifted embedded solar PV generation, exacerbating the impact of low demand from the transmission system.”

Instantaneous power demand dipped too, but was just short of breaking the record. On Easter Saturday at 4.47am it fell to 18.48GW, just shy of the 18.21GW record set on 11 August 2019.

Kaluza’s flexibility analyst, Valts Grintals, said: “The Easter weekend’s record-breaking dip in electricity demand is the latest event in a string of unprecedented changes on the grid in recent weeks.

"Historically, a large part of balancing the electricity system has involved ensuring sufficient generation headroom to meet demand. However, since the coronavirus lockdown, this approach has been flipped on its head due to the significant drop in overall electricity demand as people stay at home and certain C&I sites are shut down.

“With high renewable generation and low demand on the system, more focus has been on ensuring efficient demand is being turned-up and generation turned-down to mitigate any harmful frequency spikes.”

Demand has been consistently lower than normal since the UK government implemented a nationwide lockdown in an effort to flatten the pandemic curve. For example, energy demand was down 13% on 26 March, just two days after the lockdown was announced. This was significantly lower than an average Wednesday in March, according to Cornwall Insight, and came about as a result of factories, offices and other buildings being shut down.

“While these are unusual times and normality will return, being thrown into this new reality does offer a snapshot of what the future could hold when far greater numbers of distributed, electrified assets are on the grid, causing unpredictable drops and spikes in demand,” said Grintals.

“This future picture, combined with this latest fluctuation in demand, illustrates the need for household-level flexibility to help smooth out wide scale grid change, as part of a more dynamic and resilient energy system.”

A similar sentiment was expressed by many in the sector following the tumbling energy prices last weekend, (Sunday 5 April). Electricity prices dropped below -£66, with negative pricing lasting over five hours as strong wind and solar generation came on the grid, coupled with lower demand.

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