Economics should be open

January 9, 2009

Electric space heating in Europe, is that what’s causing the spike in electricity usage in Europe in Jan 2009?

Filed under: Energy — howardchong @ 12:59 am

This is an email I sent to a fellow researcher. The gist is that in Europe, electricity demand spikes in winter. But it doesn’t look like electric heating is widely used. So what gives?

I tried to find data on electric space heating versus other fuels sources for Europe. No luck. The US has this data in the RECS (Residential Energy Consumption Survey) database, but nothing useful for the UK. I looked for about 30 minutes.

Hi Max,

You might be interested in the following German gov’t survey:
http://www.bmwi.de/Dateien/BMWi/PDF/endbericht-erhebung-des-energieverbrauchs-private-haushalte-2005,property=pdf,bereich=bmwi,sprache=de,rwb=true.pdf

I looked it up because there are reports (see EDF article below) that European energy generation is currently maxing out due to record low temperatures. In Europe, peak electricity generation is in the winter. A priori, I would have guessed that low temperatures shouldn’t have that great of an effect on electricity unless heating were electricity based. Table 5 in the German RECS survey shows that space heating is just 4.2% of the German market. Your own temperature response research also suggests that low temperatures don’t tend to have a large positive effect on electricity usage.

Unfortunately, the news report is that France’s electricity generation is maxed out and the space heating data is from Germany, so it’s an imperfect comparison.

From ICIS-Heren:

EDF mobilises all available peak production to meet record demand

France’s EDF said on Tuesday it was mobilising all available peak plants, including fuel-oil units, to meet record national demand triggered by below-average winter temperatures. EDF also said it was reducing supplies to large customers on interruptible supply contracts, as well as purchasing additional supplies on the wholesale market. All available nuclear and run-of-river hydro units were on line for baseload production, with additional peaking units being fired up for the high-demand hours.

Grid operator RTE had already warned on Monday that France was bracing itself for a significant step-up in demand due to freezing temperatures. As predicted by RTE, a new record was set on Monday evening with consumption hitting an all-time high of 90.2GW. The previous record was set in December 2007 at 88.96GW. The latest peak demand figures for Tuesday and Wednesday stood even higher at 91GW and 90.7GW, respectively.

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