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Electricity Supply - Fun with Statistics

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SillyOldDuffer04/02/2022 18:16:40
8698 forum posts
1967 photos

Fun with statistics is never likely but I extracted some interest from this government spreadsheet, covering UK electricity between 1920 and 2020.

  • The maximum recorded simultaneous load ever was 61,717MW in 2002. The maximum simultaneous load in 2020 was 48,945MW.
  • The highest annual consumption was 361,317GWh in 2007. 244,347GWh were consumed in 2020. Highest annual consumption during WW2 occurred in 1944, when at 36,127GWh it was almost exactly 10% of the 2007 peak.
  • Highest Fuel consumption occurred in 2006, when the equivalent of 87.06 Million tonnes of Oil were burnt. Oil Equivalent in 1944 was 14.96M tonnes, and in 2020 it was 54.10M tonnes.
  • Almost all British electricity was made from coal during WW2. Almost none in 2020.
  • Green energy produced more electricity in 2020 than was consumed during 1944.
  • I expected to see electricity consumption peaking during the war years but not so. Instead it rises sharply from 1946 onwards.
  • UK electricity consumption fell by over 30% between 2010 and 2020. (From 79.41Mtonnes oil equivalent to 54.10Mtonnes oil equivalent in 2020).

Deciding what the facts mean is another game entirely! But not only are we different from 1944, we're significantly different from 2010!


Grindstone Cowboy04/02/2022 18:44:34
859 forum posts
64 photos
Posted by SillyOldDuffer on 04/02/2022 18:16:40:
  • I expected to see electricity consumption peaking during the war years but not so. Instead it rises sharply from 1946 onwards.



Frances IoM04/02/2022 19:49:23
1268 forum posts
28 photos
Pre war many large factories would generate their own power (eg belt drive to many machines) also the domestic market would expand eg coal driven ranges replaced by electric cookers, much more labour saving devices and from early 50s the omnipresent TV. I recall my father buying a washing machine in very early 50s, a TV at Christmas 1952.
Max Tolerance04/02/2022 20:01:34
57 forum posts

It shouldn't be a surprise that the electricity consumption was low during the second world war, compared with 2010 or 2021. Not many homes in the UK or Europe had much in the way of electrical appliancies For example refrigerators were very rare and the one's that did exist would have been gas powered. No-one would have a freezer,washing machine, dryer, electric iron, microwave,television etc. etc. Many didn't even have electric light in many rooms of their house. Typically they would have a light in the main rooms with a single lamp (bulb) in each. Some had a mains radio but many (if they had one at all) ran it off batteries.

Industry also relied to a great extent on a central power source and line shafting. Many still had steam or oil engines running their machine shops. The machine tool with an integral electric motor was a novelty. They did exist but were not common. No-one had their own hand power tools they just had hands and elbow grease. Or in a factory they may have had air tools. Ships, artillery guns, tanks were still riveted or screwed together not electrically welded.

Blast furnace's were fired using coal (coked) as were railway locomotives. And of course the humble horse was still a common means of moving equipment and people.

One of the things that most people don't realise is how important the horse was to the army. Many think of the German (and British) army with their "mechanised" divisions with Tanks etc. as per the propaganda news reels and believe that this was how the armies were equiped during WW2. When in fact horses where still the main stay not motor lorry's and tanks. During the Russian campaign a typical German army division would have an allocation of 911 motor vehicles, and 5375 horses!!!. Over 200 divisions were used in the initial invasion. Do the maths.

The real game changer in mechanisation came with the US involvement during the build up to D-day but that is a different story.

David Davies 805/02/2022 07:27:40
163 forum posts
9 photos

SOD said

  • UK electricity consumption fell by over 30% between 2010 and 2020. (From 79.41Mtonnes oil equivalent to 54.10Mtonnes oil equivalent in 2020).

I'm not surprised. The closure of so much heavy and medium industry is responsible for this.

For example ninety percent of TATA Steel's UK electrical energy consumption is used to make liquid steel, the balance covered hot rolling, cold rolling and further processes.

Teeside steel works closed in 2015 (by then Teeside Cast Products). Its blast furnaces used vast amounts of electricity to drive the fans used to produce the 'blast' to operate the furnace. These motors would be rated in Giga-Watts.

Llanwern Hot strip mill closed in 2016

The plant I worked at, Orb, the only maker of Silicon Steel sheet for electrical machines in the UK, closed in 2019. In 2018 we used 90 Tera-Watt-hours of electricity at a cost of £7.7M.

There must be many other example in other industries which I can't call to mind.



J Hancock05/02/2022 08:41:26
836 forum posts

I do wonder how valid some of the 'early' figures are , because until the 'nationalisation of everything'

occurred in the late '40's , everyone ' did their own thing ' to power machinery ' off grid '.

For sure ,the 2007 figures are impressive , since de-industrialisation had already taken place , that was

us/people consumption ' maxxing out ' the credit cards on 'stuff' ' before the crash in 2008..

I forward projection of 2050 figures would be nice to see.

Mike Poole05/02/2022 09:35:43
3343 forum posts
74 photos

Lucy’s of Oxford used to generate their own electricity using diesel electric generators, they had a 1MW induction furnace to supply the casting shop. As an apprentice we visited their factory for a tour round, the main generating shop was unbelievably noisy with a number of generator sets running, another interesting thing they had was a private ASTA testing station which they used to test switchgear to destruction, this was powered by its own diesel generator. Unfortunately we were unable to witness a test but the damage to the railway sleeper lining to the test chamber bore some major gouges from previous tests. The inspection ports had six inch thick glass in the tiny windows.


J Hancock05/02/2022 12:06:54
836 forum posts

Sixty years ago, nearly every large town/city had a complete infrastructure in place to provide electric

powered public transport. All affordable , convenient and pollution free.

The whole lot was scrapped , to save money ?

And now.........................

SillyOldDuffer05/02/2022 13:41:07
8698 forum posts
1967 photos

More trivia about Gigawatts. Apparently the Giga- prefix meaning 10⁹ or short billion (1000,000,000) was inspired by it's appearance in a German nonsense poem published in 1905 by Christian Morgenstern in his book 'Galgenlieder'.

Galgenlieder means 'Songs from the Gallows', which reminds me how important it is in English to remember the difference between 'hung' and 'hanged'. Importnat because a strong deterrent sentence is the only way to fix bad grammar...



David Davies 805/02/2022 21:41:08
163 forum posts
9 photos

Correcting my post above:-

The plant I worked at, Orb, the only maker of Silicon Steel sheet for electrical machines in the UK, closed in 2019. In 2018 we used 90 Giga-Watt-hours of electricity at a cost of £7.7M.

SOD's note above prompted me to check my indices!


DiodeDick05/02/2022 23:20:10
36 forum posts
9 photos

J. Hancock says that "sixty years ago nearly every large town/city had a complete infrastructure in place to provide electric powered transport. All affordable, convenient and pollution free".

The genesis of the electricity network that we know now was individual municipal corporations changing from horse-drawn to electric tramcars. There was no "grid" so they had to make their own electricity. The companies that supplied this kit usually over-estimated the power required (to allow for expansion of the tram system over time and to boost their sales in the short time) leaving the council with an excess of capacity, which they realised could be sold for domestic lighting, etc. The power stations were built near the centre of the tram system, which meant that many were built in the centre of town.They were invariably coal powered, with chain-grate stokers that struggled to reach 20% thermal efficiency, but as every house had its own open coal fire(s) nobody bothered about pollution. Battersea would have been one of the later and bigger examples.

The Tramways Act stipulated that tram systems had to be built and operated by companies independent of the councils, but could be bought out by a council after some years. This hindered investment no end. Why invest, only to get bought out before you had got your money back?

The council-owned transport was convenient, was apparently affordable (because some of the cost was hidden in the rates) but far from pollution free.

All this changed with the nationalisation of the electric companies after WW2. New, bigger, power stations were built out of town, a grid was built to connect them and Scotland embarked on the "Power from the Glens" programme.

And yes, I know about the steam powered trams widely used in the Midlands.They were coal-fired too.


Steviegtr06/02/2022 00:23:07
2436 forum posts
336 photos

Don't worry guys. As soon as the government take all the Petrol / diesel cars off the road. We will be back to a gazillion gigawatts & we can all go back to the future.


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