John FitzGerald: National wellbeing and the feel-good factor

Analysis indicates effect on morale, but an impact also registers on electricity usage

Economic literature analyses the effect of tournaments on national wellbeing through the feel-good factor. But another side effect is the impact on electricity consumption, and thus, indirectly, on greenhouse gas emissions

Economic literature analyses the effect of tournaments on national wellbeing through the feel-good factor. But another side effect is the impact on electricity consumption, and thus, indirectly, on greenhouse gas emissions

 

The Euro 2016 championship will provide welcome entertainment to many over the coming month.

An emerging branch of economic literature analyses the effect of such tournaments on national wellbeing through the feel-good factor. However, another side effect is the impact on electricity consumption, and thus, indirectly, on greenhouse gas emissions.

Experience shows that when games are played in the early evening there is some impact on Ireland’s work activity in the late afternoon, as reflected in a reduction in electricity consumption during the matches.

The 2002 World Cup was held in South Korea and Japan, so that a number of the matches involving Ireland took place in the middle of the working day. The match against Germany on Wednesday, June 5th, and the match against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, June 11th, both had kickoffs at 12.30pm Irish time.

On these days the evidence from electricity consumption data was that people worked a bit harder in the run-up to the match in the morning. However, electricity demand began to fall off an hour before kickoff, and it continued to fall through the first half.

At half-time, between 1.15pm and 1.30pm, electric kettles and cookers were switched on all over the State to prepare a very rapid snack, giving rise to a small upward blip in electricity consumption.

When the second half of the matches began, and the nation returned to a second course of football, electricity consumption (and economic activity) continued its decline.

While national spirits may have reached a peak as the full-time whistle was blown in both matches just after 2.15pm (Ireland drew against Germany and beat Saudi Arabia), electricity consumption reached its low point with 2,700MW of electricity generation in operation, 13 per cent below the 3,100MW that would have been usual for an early afternoon in June.

About 15 minutes after the matches on both dates, electricity consumption began to recover. However, it is clear from the electricity data that work did not return to normal for many people for the rest of the day. Even at 5pm electricity consumption was between 3 per cent and 4 per cent below normal, and this pattern continued for the rest of the evening.

Energy savings

By staying in pubs celebrating, rather than going home to cook an evening meal, significant energy savings were achieved and greenhouse gas emissions were reduced.

The pattern of demand for the first match on Saturday, June 1st, was different. For most people it was not a normal working day, and the kickoff occurred at 7.30am, much earlier than the traditional rising time on a Saturday.

Under normal circumstances electricity consumption on a bank holiday weekend would have been down. However, on the day of the match against Cameroon, at 7am electricity consumption was nearly 7 per cent up on a normal Saturday. Clearly the nation’s toasters were in action very early that day.

Throughout the match electricity consumption remained above normal as TVs glowed. However, once the match ended, many people retired to bed to catch up on lost sleep. For the rest of the day, as some of the population slept in, electricity demand remained well below a normal Saturday, reflecting the normal effects of a bank holiday weekend.

Ireland finally lost on penalties against Spain in the second round on Sunday, June 16th, and, as with the other games, there was a reduction in electricity demand during the match.

Because the match went to extra time and penalties, the impact on electricity consumption lasted longer than might have been expected.

No doubt Eirgrid, which manages the electricity system, was watching the match, and it adjusted the electricity generation requirement accordingly.

On that Sunday by late afternoon consumption was back to normal as most people had finished drowning their sorrows in the pub.

National output

This time round, because the Euro 2016 matches are taking place later in the day, the effect on national output is likely to be less noticeable than in 2002. Nonetheless, the pattern of electricity consumption will be affected.

Those controlling the electricity system will be watching closely to see how much extra time is played if Ireland succeeds in reaching the second round. Success may be accompanied by late nights and higher consumption as people celebrate.

However, major football matches seem to reduce overall electricity consumption and domestic greenhouse gases – even if counterbalanced to some extent by the air-miles of our travelling fans.

The longer Ireland stays in Euro 2016 the better.

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