Coronavirus impact on UK energy supply & price

energy infrastructure

With the coronavirus changing the way we live and work, the energy industry is preparing for the oncoming storm. Read on as Selectra brings you the details.


It is very important to make sure you check official sources like the UK government and the World Health Organisation to ensure you get the most accurate and updated information regarding the developing situation.

How is the energy industry preparing for the coronavirus fight?

As the UK and hundreds of other nations seemingly stumble in fits and starts into the greatest crisis since 1945, war is the metaphor invoked by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other heads of state across the world.

Meanwhile, the energy industry is much more sober in its language, but is taking the corona virus crisis no less seriously.

We take our power generators, transmitters and distributors for granted most of the time unless something goes wrong.

Doctors and nurses may be holding the front lines against the invisible enemy of covid-19 for quite some time and the UK’s energy industry will be a critical factor in their battles.

The faltering economy will also count on a dependable supply of gas and electricity to keep the wheels of industry turning, even if at a slower pace than normal.

Potentially one in five people, or perhaps millions more, will be forced to work online from home or self-isolate for weeks or months.

The UK’s energy infrastructure will have to be relied on like never before.

How is the energy industry preparing for the coronavirus emergency?

Nicola Shaw, Executive Director of National Grid, which owns and operates the electricity transmission network in England and Wales, said the company has plans in place “to keep the networks working throughout the coronavirus outbreak.”

“We have well-developed procedures in place to manage the effects of a pandemic and National Grid Electricity System Operator has analysed the anticipated effects on electricity supply and demand of mass self-isolation of the UK’s workforce,” she said.

“All our operational sites are secure with a wide range of resilience and security measures.”
Executive Director of National GridNicola Shaw

National Grid has back-up control rooms ready to be used if necessary.

Employees in critical positions are segregated to reduce the chance of infection and engineers are multi-skilled to allow them to step into other roles should the need arise.

“The welfare of our employees remains our priority. We have asked all our employees who do not need to be onsite to work from home where possible, in line with government guidance,” Ms Shaw said.

“This measure has been introduced to limit the spread of the virus, protect the health and safety of all our people, and ensure those in operational roles can continue to do their jobs.”
Executive Director of National GridNicola Shaw

National Grid is coordinating with the Energy Networks Association (ENA), the trade organization which represents network companies, as well as all energy networks across the country.

Audrey Gallacher, the Chief Executive of Energy UK, which is the trade association for the British energy industry, said the energy industry “has well-practised contingency plans in order to ensure the delivery of services.”

“These are extraordinary circumstances and the industry is working closely with the Government on a daily basis to ensure there is no disruption to the generation and supply of energy to customers,” she said.

“The sector is very conscious of the potential consequences for customers confined to their homes for prolonged periods.”
Chief Executive of Energy UKAudrey Gallacher

Ms Gallacher said suppliers would be doing as much as possible to identify vulnerable customers who may need extra help and “provide support where possible on a case by case basis.”

“On behalf of its members, Energy UK is in contact with the Government, Ofgem and Citizens Advice on what actions, protections and practical steps suppliers can take to support and reassure their customers throughout the outbreak,” she said.

What will be the effect of coronavirus on the UK’s energy consumption?

gas and electricity

While the continuous supply of energy will be crucial in the coming weeks and months, will the amount of electricity and gas we use change?

“In fact, demand across the country is expected to reduce; largely owing to a decrease in energy use from industrial consumers, which is likely to be greater than the increase in domestic demand as people stay at home,” Executive Director of National Grid Nicola Shaw said.

Energy demand has already fallen by 15% in Italy and 9% in France as those countries have gone into lockdown and all but essential business, trade and industry has started winding down.

Data from Spain shows power use reduced by 5% for the first day of a near-complete lockdown of the country which is supposedly said to last 15 days.

In the UK consumption in mid-March has dropped 6% compared to the same period last year.

In fact, an unusually mild winter has seen the usage of gas and electricity fall for several months. Between October and the last day of February there was a 2.5% reduction in consumption, more than any drop in the last ten years.

With more people staying at home and businesses closing, will the pattern of energy use resemble a typical weekend?

Domestic power usage makes up about a third of the nation’s demand for energy.

Factories, processing plants and other industrial activities take another third of the total, while the remainder is accounted for by retail and the public sector.

Energy suppliers usually see demand reduce by 10% on weekends compared to weekdays in Spring.

However, on a normal weekend many people will spend a lot of time outside the home, shopping, socializing or playing sports.

With the coronavirus advice and restrictions in place, those activities will be more or less suspended and people will spend much more time inside.

Additionally, many people will be working from home and draw more power for computers, lighting and heating than on a standard weekend in Spring.

Normally domestic usage peaks at night when people come in from work and demand from factories and retail is concentrated during the daytime.

The increase of homeworking will add some extra load during the day compared to normal but should be offset by the closures of shops, restaurants and other businesses.

Energy suppliers typically make more money on residential bills than on commercial accounts, so the rise in people continuing their jobs from their houses and flats will see a slight increase in revenue for utility companies.

This could be a very short term gain however if the UK follows the trend of other countries hit by the coronavirus and a wide-scale pause in industry across the board occurs.

If you’re working from home or have been forced to self-isolate it’s worth taking some time to check that you’re not paying any more for your energy than necessary.

Here at Selectra our experts are on hand to guide you through the confusing maze of tariffs and suppliers and help you make the right choice on the best value tariff for you. Click here to find out how you can start saving money today.

by J Mccrossan

Updated on