The heat wave is reviving demand for electricity and forcing the activation of all gas stations

the The second heat wave of the summer He says goodbye, but not before explaining its implications for the electricity market. With over thirty record temperatures across Spain, this episode “Short, but intense” – in the words of the National Meteorological Agency (Aemet) – It brought with it a marked increase in electricity consumption, which has fallen since the last price crisis. Greater use of air conditioners, especially in the central hours of the day – the hottest – has resulted in two consecutive monthly peaks in hourly electricity consumption, reaching nearly 37,200 megawatt-hours (MWh) in mainland Spain between 2 and 3 p.m. This Wednesday, according to data from the Red Electrica de España (REE).

The increase in consumption also makes it necessary to run quite a few natural gas stations (combined cycles, in energy parlance), especially in the wee hours of the night—dinner time—when demand is still strong and the sun is already set, lowering production photovoltaic cells to a minimum. Flooding forces the oldest combined cycles to run and, therefore, is less efficient and more expensive, increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the numbers he collected Gas employers in SedigasSo far in the hot season – since June 1 – cycles have contributed just over a fifth of the electricity consumed in Spain. At ten o’clock at night in the last two days, this figure was about 50%. “The operator of the system had to resort to all available natural gas production units in order to be able to meet demand,” he stressed in a statement.

Nevertheless, the price of electricity on the wholesale market, which all contracts in the regulated market drink from (nearly four in ten homes), remains relatively stable—in fact, it drops in the central hours of the day—thanks to the rise of panels. solar. This is, more and more, the essential disconnect between demand and cost of electricity.

Still far from the annual maximum

However, peak hourly electricity demand this Wednesday lunchtime is a long way from the 2023 cap and, above all, from the maximum supply capacity of the Peninsula system. So far this year, the highest hourly light consumption occurred between eight and nine at night on January 24, a cold day, when demand surged above 38,600 MWh. That’s nearly 4% more than between two and three in the afternoon on Wednesday.

However, if the pattern of last year is followed, it is still possible that the peak in electricity demand is yet to come in the coming weeks: in 2022, it occurred between 2 and 3 in the afternoon of July 14, in the most severe phase. to A very strong heat wave left 360 people dead in less than a week. It is, in fact, a long-term change: the combination of global warming and the gradual promotion of air conditioning in public spaces and homes is causing the annual peak in electricity demand to occur, more and more, in the summer rather than in the winter.

Historic peak in December 2007

Overall, electricity demand in Spain, at an all-time high, still corresponds to a wintry day: as the economy drained the last honey from the real estate boom before the crash that was to come, it touched 44,900 megawatt-hours between seven and eight. It is the afternoon of December 17, 2007. Although Spain at that time had a population about two million fewer than it does today and had less access to electricity, the positive development of energy efficiency in electrical appliances has significantly reduced demand. permanent. he self-consumption boomThe recent price crisis and increased environmental awareness have also done their job, reducing idle demand and prompting households and businesses to strive for maximum savings on their bills.

For its part, the historical peak of summer consumption occurred between one and two o’clock in the afternoon on July 19, 2010, when it touched 41,000 MWh. The current numbers are still far from then: 9% below.

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