How do you expect energy use patterns to change over the holidays?  Does the UK actually consume more or less over the Christmas period? We take a look at reported energy use from 2014 in the UK, France and Australia, and come up with some surprising findings.

Why should we expect our consumption to change?

The majority of office-based businesses close over the holidays.  That should mean that thousands of premises will no longer be drawing power for their lighting and appliances. Heating is probably controlled by a landlord, who may lower temperatures over the holiday to reduce waste.

Even if business owners don’t remember to turn off equipment and lighting, or if they’re still open, a large number of employees have probably booked annual leave or are working from home.

But that means that those employees will be using extra energy at home, while their business premises are still drawing some level of power (for basic heating, for example).

So which is it?  Does energy consumption increase or decrease over the holidays?

A look at the UK grid

With data pulled from an online archive, we can see exactly how the UK’s demand for power changed over the festive season in 2014.

On 19th December, also known as Black Friday, which is typically the last day of work before most offices close for Christmas, demand on the grid reached a peak of over 47GW.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve, and the peak demand had dropped to around 41GW.

On Christmas Day, it had fallen even further, to a peak of just 37GW.

That means that, as a country, including both homes and businesses, there’s a reduction in energy consumption of more than 21% between the peaks of Black Friday and Christmas Day.

An opportunity for savings

Of course, there’s nothing too surprising there – almost every business is closed on Christmas Day.

But with a difference in consumption that large, it could mean that the UK’s businesses have the opportunity for massive savings on their business electricity costs if they were to encourage more working from home, or even if they just remembered to turn things off.

So what about the rest of the world?

In other countries, you can see the same sorts of patterns – but not always to the same degree.

In France, peak demand in 2014 dropped from 67GW on Black Friday down to around 60GW on Christmas Day.  That’s only a drop of 10%, compared to the UK’s 21%.

In Australia, Christmas Day was the lowest point in the year for total electricity used in Victoria and South Australia.  While in New South Wales and Queensland, Christmas Day was a close second for the lowest-consumption day of the year.

What’s surprising is just how much variation there was across the different regions of Australia.

While New South Wales experienced a drop in consumption of 23% on Christmas Day in 2012 (similar to the UK’s 2014 drop) Queensland saw a fall of only 15% – closer to the patterns observed in France.

So what does it all mean?  Do more French businesses stay open during the holidays than UK ones?  Or is New South Wales better at switching off their office lights than Queensland?

We’d love to hear your theories on LinkedIn or Google+.

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