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The teatime torrent

September 09, 2015   By Kevin F. Langston in Reduce The Use

The British soap opera "Eastenders" has been on the air since 1985 and rates as one of the British Broadcasting Corporation's most popular programs. It has an average audience share of 30 percent per episode, which means three out of every 10 televisions in the United Kingdom is tuned to "Eastenders" five nights a week. I'm not sure there's an American equivalent, really.

Why am I telling you this? Because if there's one thing the British love more than televised melodrama it's tea. And when that latest episode of "Eastenders" ends, approximately 1.75 million kettles are switched on at the same time.

Known as the "TV pickup," it's become such a national routine that the British National Grid has taken measures over the years to ensure it can handle the additional 3 gigawatts of temporary demand; there's even a hydroelectric plant in Wales whose primary purpose is to absorb some of it.

Santee Cooper also has supplemental generating assets that we call "peaking units." These units are idle most of the time but can be pressed into service whenever we experience extremely high demand on our system. They can't produce nearly as much power as our baseload units, but there are times when every little bit helps. (In fact, some of these peaking units were vital in helping Santee Cooper restart Grainger Generating Station in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo.)

We also have many procedures in place to ensure the lights stay on when they're needed most, but our customers play an important role as well. While not as predictable as Britain's "Eastenders" viewership, our customers' energy demands generally peak around the same time each day. The first surge comes in the morning when people are getting ready for school or work, and the second comes when everyone returns home and starts supper and other daily duties. This is when your home's energy appetite is greatest.

That's why we ask our customers to do simple things like stagger some of their household routines to help balance out the overall demand on our system. By waiting a couple of hours to run the dishwasher, dry laundry or take baths, you're helping us provide a steady and reliable flow of electricity to all of our customers.

Click here for more ways to save energy at home.

[Photo via Denise Mattox/Flickr]