8pm clap for carers & NHS causes energy spike

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Gratitude for the work of NHS staff, carers and other key workers has swept the country, with the weekly 8pm “clap for carers” becoming ritual the length and breadth of the UK.


The show of support for frontline carers and medical professionals lifts the national spirit. Unfortunately, it does the same for our energy consumption.

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The weekly routine, which takes place every Thursday at 8pm, is now so widely observed that it has been seen to have an effect on demand at the National Grid. Last week’s clap caused what the Grid itself referred to on its Twitter account as a “huge 950MW spike.”

What caused the 8pm spike?

The spike in energy use occurred, in fact, just after 8pm, when millions of people across the country went back into their houses after clapping. It’s thought to be caused by people putting the kettle on or switching on the lights as they went back inside.

Here’s what the National Grid tweeted:

Wonderful to see Great Britain collectively clapping last night! Our control room saw a huge 950MW spike in electricity demand – what we call a ‘pickup’ effect – when you all went back inside to stick the kettle on and carry on with your evening.

A similar spike was seen in previous weeks but it was magnified last week by the weather, which was overcast and is said to have caused more people to put their lights on before sunset.

The ‘pickup’ effect

Pickups in energy demand are most often seen in the UK when popular TV programmes and events are being shown. They occur just after the event when everyone is released by the grip of the television and begins using energy in other ways in their home again.

The most significant pickup in UK energy usage ever happened just after England lost to West Germany in the semi-finals of the football World Cup in 1990, when consumption jumped up by 2800MW. Interested in how much energy it takes to host a World Cup match? See our article. Other significant pickups were noted after the following events:

  • The wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981
  • The airing of episodes of the hit TV-show The Thorn Birds in 1984
  • England’s quarter-final loss to Brazil in the 2002 football World Cup

These are the occasions, it seems, when the nation came together in the past and observed the same rituals in unison. The challenges of today put their importance into perspective, but it’s encouraging to see this show of appreciation having a similar effect.

Support for key workers on show

This most recent pickup goes to show the extent of the appreciation people feel for those putting their own health on the line to care for those worst affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Clap for Carers will happen for the fifth time this week but enthusiasm for it only seems to be growing.

But applause is just one of a number of ways people all over the country are demonstrating their support for NHS staff and key workers. In Selby, North Yorkshire, workers at the Drax Power Station lit one of its cooling towers blue at 8pm last Thursday in tribute to the NHS.

Engineers from Drax, EMI and Yess Electrical, led by Drax’s Michael Davies, installed the blue lighting on the 114-metre-tall cooling tower last week to honour NHS workers. Davies had the following to say:

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week these people are putting themselves in harm’s way to protect us and look after those worst affected by this disease. Lighting up one of our cooling towers is our signal to those working in the NHS to let them know we appreciate what they’re doing.”

Here at Selectra, we can only agree with Mr Davies. We hope to see you out on your doorstep again this Thursday at 8pm!

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