How will the Winter World Cup impact SEM Power Demand?

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How will the Winter World Cup impact SEM Power Demand?


The 2022 Qatar Winter World Cup has had possibly the most controversial build-up of all iterations of the quadrennial football showpiece in recent memory, which is truly saying something given that the last one took place in Russia. While the concerns about bidding corruption, migrant workers and LGBT rights have been well documented, one area not as widely discussed is the potential impact on power demand of moving one of the most watched sporting events in the world in the thick of the winter.


This year’s World Cup will take place between 20 Nov and 18 Dec. In six of the last eight years, peak annual electricity demand on the Irish system has occurred within those dates. In fact, the weeks of the year in which the tournament takes place are typically among the highest weeks of demand across the entire year.


In a winter which already will be tough for system operators to negotiate, the effect of a winter World Cup on power demand is a bit of an unknown quantity. So, what can we expect?


Up for the Match

We look at the behaviour of the system during other major sporting events from the last few years. The Euro 2020 final between England and Italy in July 2021 kicked off at 20:00 and went to penalties and extra time, finishing around 23:00. We can clearly see in the demand profile from the day the effect of the game on SEM power demand – typically at that time, demand should be ramping down for the day, but there are two noticeable spikes at 21:00 (corresponding to half-time) and 22:00 (corresponding to full-time and the start of extra-time/penalties).

The World Cup Final in 2018 between France and Croatia kicked off a bit earlier at 16:00, and even though it is typical for demand to be high at this time, we see another noticeable spike at 17:00 during half-time.

The Ireland v New Zealand game at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan kicked off at 10:15, but we still see similar behaviour even with the change in time of day. We see the same spike at 11:00 for half-time, but we also see a quick drop off after half-time when it became apparent that Ireland were going to fail at the quarter-final stage yet again – something Irish rugby fans could do with being reminded of given the current hype.


“They just didn’t show up on the day”

It seems that when there is a large sporting event taking place that many people in Ireland will be watching, we should expect to see some spikey demand. But this isn’t always the case. The 2022 Champions League Final between Liverpool and Real Madrid was well watched in Ireland, and the Day-Ahead EirGrid demand forecast is expected to see a peak in demand around the time of the game. However, this peak did not materialise.

Perhaps the most relevant sporting event we can reach for in examining this World Cup is the delayed All-Ireland Football Final in 2020, which started at 17:00. This took place on the last Sunday before Christmas, the same day as this year’s World Cup final, and was the most watched sporting event in Ireland that year.

Again, EirGrid expected a peak in demand at half-time. However, despite power peaking at this time, the spike is certainly not as noticeable as with other events, perhaps indicating that by that time of year there are more important factors influencing power consumption.


Place your Bets

You might expect that with the demand spikes during game times, it might be harder for the TSO to forecast consumption. The graph below looks at the change in Mean Absolute Percentage Error (MAPE) in the Day-Ahead demand forecast for a range of sporting events over the last few years, comparing the MAPE during the hours the event occurs versus the error over the whole month for those same hours.



The graph suggests that the accuracy Day-Ahead forecast does somewhat suffer during major sporting events – the error increased by 11% on average across all the sporting events selected above. However, many of the events show similar or even better error metrics – so it is by no means impossible for the TSO to accurately predict the odd behaviour of the system during these times.


Giants of the Game

While this analysis is interesting for sports fans, it is worth putting this in the context of Irish television habits, as the most watched television event every year has consistently been the Late, Late Toy Show, which last year had almost double the viewership of the next closest competitor, the All-Ireland Football Final. Interestingly, this event also falls within this year’s World Cup window – on Friday 25th November, Ryan Tubridy’s annual festive behemoth will be directly preceded by the Group B encounter between England and the United States, a game which should draw considerable interest from Irish footballing audiences. Let’s hope a healthy amount of wind generation shows up that night…


Thank you for reading!

Article was written by Paddy Larkin

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