Heatwave electricity demand surges as we battle to keep cool

Increase in demand equivalent to an area the size of Scotland

Soaring temperatures have seen Great Britain’s electricity demand spike as we crank up the air conditioning and turn up our freezers – with demand increasing by almost 900MW. The increased demand is the equivalent of an extra 2.5 million households, or an area the size of the whole of Scotland, new data from Drax Electric Insights reveals.

Demand for electricity rises 350MW for every degree the temperature rises above 20°C. With temperatures peaking at 36°C, the electricity system has really been feeling the heat.

Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London, who compiles the Electric Insights reports, said:

“As the temperature rises, we use more cooling technology – that’s everything from office air conditioning, to fans, all of which use electricity. Places like supermarkets, with their large freezer sections, are some of the biggest energy users – as the temperature hots up, everything has to work that bit harder to keep cool.

“Global demand for cooling technology is only going to increase as temperatures, and global income, rise. More people will be willing and able to invest in the technology, which will add greater stress to the system during the summer months. That being said, it’s still far easier to manage this demand in the summer, as with hot weather comes plenty of solar power.

“Thankfully, we’re able to provide electricity for cooling that’s relatively low in carbon thanks to this solar technology – it’s still the winter months that are the most carbon intensive as we need to ramp up gas and coal generation.”

The increased summer demand is only expected to grow with National Grid predicting that the peak load from air conditioners will triple in the coming decade.

Andy Koss, CEO of Drax Power, said:

“It’s no surprise that the recent heatwave has equated to a surge in demand. The summer months are much greener in terms of electricity production thanks to the country’s reliance on renewables, but the challenge of balancing the system is very real.

“When there is increased solar and wind generation, our biomass units not only work to meet the demand caused by the greater need for cooling but also to balance the system and provide support services to the Grid.”

Drax has upgraded half of its power station in North Yorkshire from coal to use sustainable biomass, and is in the process of converting a fourth. It is now the biggest single site renewable generator in the country and the largest decarbonisation project in Europe.

Explore this data live on the Electric Insights website: https://electricinsights.co.uk/


Media contacts

Jessica Gorton
Drax Group Press Officer
E: [email protected]
T: 07712 677177

About Electric Insights

  • Electric Insights Quarterly was commissioned by Drax and is delivered independently by a team of academics from Imperial College London, facilitated by the College’s consultancy company – Imperial Consultants. The report analyses raw data that are made publicly available by National Grid and Elexon, which run the electricity and balancing market respectively. Released four times a year, it will focus on supply and demand, prices, emissions, the performance of the various generation technologies and the network that connects them.
  • Along with Dr Iain Staffell, the team from Imperial included Professors Richard Green and Tim Green, experts in energy economics and electrical engineering, and Dr Rob Gross who contributed expertise in energy policy. The work to date has revealed scope for further research in this area, to inform both government and organisations within the energy industry.
  • The quarterly reports are backed by an interactive website electricinsights.co.uk which provides live data from 2009 until the present.
  • Read Dr Iain Staffell’s heatwave article.

About Drax

Drax Group plc plays a vital role in helping change the way energy is generated, supplied and used for a better future. Its 2,300-strong staff operate across three principal areas of activity – electricity generation, electricity sales to business customers and compressed wood pellet production.

The Group includes:

Drax Power Ltd, which operates the largest power station in the UK, based at Selby, North Yorkshire and supplies seven per cent of the country’s electricity needs. The energy firm converted from burning coal to become a predominantly biomass-fueled electricity generator. Drax is the biggest single site renewable generator in the UK and the largest decarbonisation project in Europe.

Haven Power, based in Ipswich, supplies electricity to large Industrial and Commercial sector businesses.

Opus Energy, based in Oxford, Northampton and Cardiff, provides electricity and gas to small and medium sized (SME) businesses.

Drax Biomass, is based in the US and manufactures compressed wood pellets produced from sustainably managed working forests, supplying fuel used by Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire to generate flexible, renewable power for the UK’s homes and businesses.

For more information visit www.drax.com/uk