Domestic electricity use up during day as nation works from home

Home energy use is up by up to 30% during the middle of the day, new analysis by energy firms reveals.

Much of the population is working from home and schools have closed, meaning home computers and televisions are busier than ever.

The highest peak is at lunchtime, when cooking is added to the power consumption of working from home.

But overall, the country is actually using less energy because of businesses being closed.

The National Grid reports that morning and afternoon electricity demand is down by nearly 20%. But most of that is due to lower demand from large, industrial users like factories.

At home, where individuals are paying, overall demand is up – and may reveal some details about our new habits.

Lie-ins
Many people are no longer commuting to the office – giving them longer to stay in bed before getting ready for work. Energy providers can see that, in a “delay” to early electricity demand.

“Households are consuming 21% less electricity than usual at 07:30, as fewer people commute to work, and are taking back the time to sleep later instead,” a spokeswoman for Bulb Energy said, based on data from more than 2,000 smart meters.

Ovo Energy is seeing similar results from a sample of 230,000 customers.

“Morning routines are less structured and therefore the peak has reduced by up to 20%, as many people are working from home or not working at all,” a spokeswoman said.

“We are seeing big changes in the way people consume energy during the lockdown period.”

Any energy being saved in the morning is being consumed later. Ovo reports seeing up to a 30% increase in the midday period, and Bulb reports a 27% rise. EDF did not provide figures, but said it was seeing notably higher consumption in the middle of the day.

Bulb also says it is seeing a 7% drop in energy use between 21:00 and 23:00, “suggesting people are switching off earlier too”.

Despite the midday surge, overall domestic demand has increased by only a few percentage points, rather than dramatically surging – partly due to weekend use remaining mostly the same.

Ovo says that “balancing out the ups and downs”, it is only seeing a 6% overall increase in domestic consumption. EDF says it is only seeing a 3% rise.

Bulb said overall use across the week is flat. But it also calculated its weekday usage separately – and said use is up by 17% between 09:00 and 17:00 Monday-Friday. At the weekend, electricity use is actually down 3% – which it attributes to the warmer weather.

Gas use, too, is not showing any clear surge in demand, since many people use it for central heating, and the lockdown coincided with warmer weather.

Consumer help
Despite those small overall numbers, energy bills may rise for some more than others. Professionals who use power-hungry computing equipment, or shared households with many people, could see their bills increase.

In March, the government agreed a deal with energy providers to support those who may have difficulty paying their bills during the crisis, which has left many people out of work.

“With millions of people having to stay at home, our energy bills will likely rise as we use more gas and electricity,” says Guy Anker, deputy editor of financial site MoneySavingExpert.com.

“So with money tight for so many, it makes it even more imperative to cut back on usage where you can, and also to cut back on your bills by ditching rip-off tariffs.”

Switching from a standard tariff could save people up to £350 a year, he says – and using one of the many available price comparison sites should only take five minutes.

“Your supply isn’t cut off as part of the process, while no one visits your home unless you want or need smart meters – though installations are paused for now, so it’s not an issue during the lockdown.”