Insights: Electricity demand down by 17% during COVID-19 lockdown

Measures put in place by the UK Government to control the COVID-19 outbreak have resulted in electricity demand falling sharply in the GB electricity market, according to Elexon data estimates. In this Elexon Insight, our Data & Insight Analyst, Nick Baker investigates the scale of the demand reduction.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19, the measures taken by the UK Government to try and control the spread of the virus have been unprecedented. There have been a number of policy decisions, which have seen noticeable lifestyle and workplace changes throughout the country, including:

  • 16 March: UK Government advises people to work from home, if they are able to do so
  • 18 March: UK Government announced closure of schools
  • 23 March: UK Government invokes national lockdown

Through the data that is available from the Elexon systems, we have found that:

  • Demand has fallen by 17% since the lockdown measures were introduced, compared to the weeks prior to restrictions being put in place by the Government
  • Generally weekday demand levels across GB are now similar to the level typically seen at weekends

Now let us look in more detail at what our data sources show about the reduction in demand.

On 1 July an updated Insight article about electricity demand during COVID-19 lockdown was published.

Initial Demand Out-turn

The Initial National Demand Out-Turn (INDO) is published by Elexon on the Balancing Mechanism Reporting Service (BMRS) and shows average demand in megawatts across GB for each Settlement Period.

Typically March is a transition month from winter to spring and can have large temperature differences between different years. This leads to a temperature variation in energy demand year by year, which is sometimes quite pronounced.

The range of daily average demand (difference between the maximum and minimum daily averages) during March 2020 was 12,724MW. This is the largest range during March for the last four years (2017: 9,636MW, 2018: 10,761MW, 2019: 8,319MW).

March 2020 has seen the economy change from operating in normal conditions to a period of lockdown, which has dramatically cut demand.

The graph below shows daily average INDO since January 2017. March has been highlighted in each year in the graph to aid comparison between years.

Initial Demand Out-turn

You can adjust the date range shown in this graph by using the Settlement Date slider underneath the graph.

The daily average demand range in March 2020 was calculated by comparing the maximum daily average demand of 36,315MW (on 5 March 2020 which was during a cold snap) and the minimum average demand of 23,591MW (on 28 March 2020 following implementation of the lockdown).

Grid Supply Point Group Take

Grid Supply Point (GSP) Group Take is the net energy measured coming from or going into a particular Local Distribution System (i.e. a GSP Group) in a Settlement period. GSP Group Take is based on actual meter readings gathered by the Central Data Collection Agent (CDCA) at the boundary points of each region. GSP Group Take is available in CDCA data flows, with the first view available three working days after a given date.

The GSP Group Take provides a view of the demand for a region. Within a GSP Group demand comes from Non Half Hourly (NHH) sites, which are generally households and smaller businesses, and Half Hourly (HH) sites, typically larger businesses or industrial sites.

We are able to examine the changes in GSP Group Take before and during the lockdown and have shown the changes in the graph below. The graph displays GSP Group Take data from 1 February 2020 to 31 March 2020, and splits the data into three periods:

  • No restrictions = runs from 1 February 2020 to 16 March 2020 and shows a time with no restrictions from Government and hence unfettered demand
  • Advised restrictions = highlights changes in GSP Group Take in the week prior to the lockdown when the government had advised people work from home (17 March 2020 to 23 March 2020)
  • National lockdown = shows GSP Group Take after the Government implemented the full lockdown restrictions from 24 March 2020 up until 31 March 2020.

Regional impact

The day of the week and the region have an impact on the average Group Take, as typically each day and each region have different levels and patterns of demand.

Impact of restrictions on regional GSP Group Take

The impact of initial Government measures did reduce demand, but a much larger reduction can be seen following the implementation of the lockdown announced on 23 March. Using an average GSP Group Take across the 14 regions, the week preceding the lockdown saw a reduction in demand of 6% over both a weekday and over the weekend. A further 14% and 9% decrease for weekdays and weekends respectively was seen once the lockdown was in place. This has meant that across all GSP Groups, the average demand reduction was 17% following the lockdown measures, compared to the time when no restrictions were in place.

Some individual GSP Groups have seen demand fall more than others, as shown by the daily average GSP Group Take graph above. The Southern (GSP Group _H) and London (GSP Group _C) regions have seen the biggest megawatt hour volume reductions, of over 300MWh on average over a day.

Meanwhile the South Western region (GSP Group _L) has seen the biggest percentage reduction in GSP Group Take of 29%. Comparatively Merseyside & North Wales and North Scotland have seen the lowest percentage reductions in a daily average GSP Group Take (7% and 2% respectively).

Weekdays and weekends

Impact of restrictions on weekdays in London


We can also see how the lockdown has changed behaviour by looking at the weekday morning demand in London (GSP Group _C). When no restrictions are in place, in Settlement Periods 12 to 18 (05:30 to 09:00) there is normally a large pick up in demand.

This demand increase is due to the morning commute to work in London for many people. The increase in average GSP Group Take is 582MWh (a 46.3% increase) for London on a weekday morning while no restrictions are in place.

In comparison, on a weekday during the lockdown, the increase in demand between the same Settlement Periods was just 305MWh a pick up of 29.3% over the morning. This means the morning pick up in demand for London is 47.6% less as a result of the lockdown.

The graph on GSP Group Take below compares demand during weekdays and weekends before, and during the lockdown to look changing behaviour.

This graph uses average GSP Group Take data, but excludes the advised restrictions period, which was the week before the lockdown came into effect.

Weekend demand has been shown as dashed lines in the graph, highlighting that the shape and volume of demand on a weekday after lockdown across all GSP Groups is now more comparable to a weekend before any Government restrictions.

Comparisons of weekdays and weekends for no restrictions and lockdown

GSP Group Take during COVID-19 vs other years

The graph below compares the total GSP Group Take for 17-31 March 2020, the “Advised Restrictions Period” to the same date range in the previous three years.

March 2020 has the lowest total GSP Group Take of the four years at 9.2TWh. This is 9% lower than for the same period in March 2019.

There are a number of elements that will have an impact on demand, not least weather, therefore we have consulted the temperature data used by Elexon to assess a seasonal normal demand to determine what impact the shutdown is having on demand overall. From this information we have seen that March 2018 was an unseasonably cold period, when compared to March 2017 and 2019.

In Great Britain the general relationship between temperature and energy demand is that colder weather will result in higher electricity demand and warmer weather lower electricity demand.

From Elexon’s temperature data, the average noon temperature for 17-31 March was 11.0oC in 2017, 6.4oC in 2018, 10.8oC in 2019, and 9.3oC in 2020.

Average noon temperatures between 17-31 March 2020, were 1.5oC lower than 2019, so an increase in demand could be expected because of this. However, even when the colder temperature is accounted for, the graph highlights that demand still fell after the Government advised people to work from home, and then announced the lockdown.

GSP Group Take during 17-31 March for 2017-2020

Helping the industry to manage COVID-19

Elexon has been talking extensively to BSC Parties to understand any concerns that they have and been working with the BSC Panel, the Performance Assurance Board and industry to make speedy changes to the BSC requirements to address the concerns.

For more information and the latest updates about these initiatives please visit the COVID-19 information page.

More information

Find out more background information and data sources mentioned in this article.

Balancing Mechanism Reporting Service

Elexon makes a significant amount of data available for free under an open data licence through the Balancing Mechanism Reporting Service (BMRS). The BMRS is the best source for tracking the electricity wholesale market in near real time, including the generation mix and demand. 

Also, Initial Demand Out-turn data is publicly available on BMRS.

GSP Group Take

GSP Group Take data is available for BSC Parties via the CDCA-I029 ‘Aggregated GSP Group Take Volumes’ data flow. Non-BSC Parties can access the same data flow via the P114 licence data flows set.

For more information on Elexon’s data, please view our Data section, which provides an overview of the content on the BMRS, the Elexon Portal – as part of Open Settlement Data – and of data flows available to BSC Parties and the public.


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