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The National Grid – the unsung World Cup hero

Football World Cup 2010

Spare a thought for the National Grid while you watch the football

Spare a thought for the National Grid as you settle down to watch England’s match against Algeria tomorrow – they’ll be working extra hard behind the scenes to keep all of our TVs on so that we can enjoy the game.

The National Grid is responsible for making sure we’ve got the right amount of electricity at the right time, and they’re currently preparing for unprecedented power surges if England do well in the World Cup.

Our electricity network could see demand for an extra 3,000-megawatts of electricity – that’s equivalent to 1.2 million kettles being boiled –  if England make it through to the last few stages of the competition.

The phenomenon is called ‘TV pick-up’, and the National Grid deal with it on a daily basis – for example when a lot of people are watching the same TV programme, like Eastenders or Corrie, they’re likely to get up and put the kettle on at the same time.  Big football matches have the same effect but  on a much bigger scale, as the population comes together to turn on their TV and make a cup of tea or open the fridge to grab a beer for the big match.

Jon Fenn, National Grid’s electricity operations manager, commented: “Making sure that demand is met is down to the skill of the forecasting team and also the engineers in the control centre who do the second-by-second balancing of demand and supply.”

“It must be one of the few jobs where watching World Cup matches is essential to your work rather than a distraction, because we need to know to the second when half-time and full-time occur to be ready for the surges in demand.”