COVID-19 impacts: decrease in energy demand

Research from Cornwall Insight highlights that a day after the government imposed lockdown, energy demand was down 13% across the day (Wednesday 25 March). This was much lower than the average Wednesday in March 2019, which is shown in the below graph.

energy demand comparison

Tom Edwards Senior Modeller at Cornwall Insight said:

“The power and gas systems are mirror images of the wider economy, entering practically every aspect of work and leisure. They naturally face challenges as a result of the effects of the Covid-19 virus on the way we work, travel and live.

“The effects on energy demand was less pronounced on the week commencing 16 March. With demand in some cases higher than the 2019 values for the same time. This is likely due to most elements of the economy still functioning, and at this point, no large industrial consumers had announced closures.

“As more people started to work from home throughout last week, the load was increased and spread. With a rise in home workers, there could even have been an increase in telecommunications and server load to cope with the rising bandwidth requirements.

“However, as large electrical loads such as factories, shops and rail started to reduce their activities, demand on Monday 23 March (before lockdown) was down 9% across the day versus an average March Monday in 2019. It is likely we can expect more reduced activity over the coming weeks.

“The government announced lockdown resulted in further reductions. This is most notable in the morning peak and middle of the day when we would typically expect the industrial and commercial load to be ramping up.

“Lower demand brings its own set of challenges to managing the system, the chief among which is managing system stability. Low demand means there is less space to operate larger synchronous generators. This can affect system inertia and Rate of Change of Frequency – how quickly the system responds to a change of conditions. To cope with this, the ESO could constrain wind and keep thermal plant such as gas or coal running.”