The Effect of Large Sporting Events on the Grid

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 The Effect of Large Sporting Events on the Grid


July 14th, 2019 saw the final of the Men’s Wimbledon Singles as well as the Cricket World Cup Final. As the clock reached four hours fifty-seven minutes, in what became Wimbledon’s longest singles final, Djokovic beat Federer 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 13-12 (7-3). While this was happening, another major sporting event was also underway as England faced New Zealand in the Cricket World Cup Final. Both sides scored 241 in their 50 overs and were level on 15 when they battled for an extra “super over” apiece. England eventually were declared winners because of having scored more boundary fours and sixes. Yet another record was achieved: the first tie in a Cricket World Cup Final.

The low probability of record ties occurring in both events, extending the overall length of each match, could be considered practically impossible for electricity system operators to predict and forecast for.

‘TV Pickup’ is known as a period in which there is a sudden, synchronised surge in national electricity demand on the grid due to certain TV broadcasts attracting many viewers. Ad breaks also play an important role in this phenomenon as viewers take this time to switch on electrical appliances, such as kettles and toasters at the same time.

In Ireland, the system operator aims to achieve a nominal frequency on the island of Ireland of 50 Hz, this occurs when demand and generation are balanced. The normal operating frequency range is between 49.8 Hz and 50.2 Hz. An excess of generation leads to an increase in frequency and conversely, an insufficient amount of generation leads to a decrease in system frequency. A sudden change in demand, generation or interconnector flow leads to a sudden fluctuation in system frequency.

The TV pickup that occurred on July 14th, 2019 can be detected by analysing system frequency data, published at five second resolution by Eirgrid.


Figure 1. All Island System Frequency July 14th, 2019. Data provided by Eirgrid.
Figure 1. All Island System Frequency July 14th, 2019. Data provided by Eirgrid.


The Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final began at 2 p.m. Between 13:50:00 and 13:59:00 the system frequency was kept mainly in the 50.04 Hz – 50.06 Hz range, perhaps preparing the system for the expected surge in demand for the 2 o’clock match. At 13:59:15 system frequency was 50.06 Hz, just ten seconds later at 13:59:25 system frequency had dropped to 49.99 Hz.

Arguably more difficult to predict was when audiences would turn off their T.V. following the end of both matches – when would both matches finish? And how long after the end of each match would audiences switch off?

The Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final lasted an incredible four hours and fifty-seven minutes, finishing in the evening at 18.57, whilst England were declared the Cricket World Cup champions at 19.33. Looking at system frequency, we can again see the effect on the grid.


Figure 2. All Island System Frequency July 14th, 2019. Data provided by Eirgrid.
Figure 2. All Island System Frequency July 14th, 2019. Data provided by Eirgrid.


One minute after the end of the Wimbledon Final, at 18:58:00, system frequency was 49.96 Hz, 6 minutes and 40 seconds later it had climbed back up to 50.02 Hz as demand began dropping from the grid. Ten minutes after the winners of the Cricket World Cup were declared, system frequency saw a dramatic climb. At 19:42:25 system frequency was 49.96 Hz, by 19:44:15 it had jumped back up to 50.03 Hz.

Reacting to a sudden change in system frequency, inertial response can be viewed as the first responder. Inertial response is a capability of large synchronous generators. The rotating masses of these generators can speed up or slow down and change system frequency, responding in 0-5 seconds. The system operator may then employ slower reacting reserve systems.

Planning for and predicting the behaviour of electricity consumers during large sporting events is evidently a high priority for system operators, with high levels of uncertainty. How many people are expected to view the game live? What affect on electricity consumption will ad breaks have? It is therefore of high importance for the system operator to understand, predict and be prepared for the behaviour of individuals residing in Ireland.

There is clearly a group of ardent cricket followers on the island, but obviously not as many as there are in Great Britain, home of the English tournament hosts, judging by the below screenshot shared by National Grid ESO:


National Grid ESO


The TV pickup on the Great Britain system was 700MW+.