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History Of Electricity Part 2

How Much Electricity We Use

In the second of our posts on the history of electricity, we’re looking at our electricity usage over the last century:

1920 – in 1919, the Electricity Act was passed and the Electricity Supply Corporation was founded, paving the way for electricity in the home. In these early days, the average consumption of electricity per household was relatively high – in fact it was comparable with levels in the 1950s in fact, when electrical appliances were more affordable and more commonplace. This can be attributed to the highly inefficient use of electricity in the home at this point.

1929-39 – the number of homes with electricity grew sharply in the 1930s, thanks to a ground breaking and highly successful marketing campaign. However there was a real anomaly in behaviour as this was the Depression era and while many people were living in poverty, others were prospering and could afford to invest in new inventions like washing machines.

1939-45 – understandably the number of additional homes being connected was severely reduced during the Second World War leading to stagnation in the number of households on supply.

1962-4 – the amount of electricity used in the home grew dramatically. As the 60s progressed and the austerity of the post war years passed, people began to invest in and use more electricity. The springboard was set for ever increasing energy use with little thought to the potential consequences for the future.

1974-77 – However, soon the climate changed with electricity usage dipping during the mid-70s. The UK had fallen into a recession, blackouts were common and the first miners strike limiting coal supplies led to the implementation of the Three Day Week to try and conserve the fuel needed to produce electricity.

1980-82 – Following a brief recovery in the mid-70s, electricity usage fell again in the early 80s as the UK hit recession again.

1985-1995 – Following the Falklands war and the boom years of the 1980s electricity usage was buoyant as more houses and more affluence drove the need for new generation plant and technologies.

2004 – Average electricity usage per household hit its all-time peak in 2004, while total national electricity consumption’s peak came in 2006. No one expected this to stop here.

2008-14– However since the worldwide economic crisis hit in 2008, another recession, borderline depression hit, and this time it was to stay although not technically but in the minds and behaviours of UK households. Unsurprisingly electricity usage fell once more well below the peaks of the early 2000’s.

The future – inevitably as the economy recovers so will energy consumption, the bigger question will be how will generation sources change to cope with increased demand in a time of moving away from fossil fuels and decommissioning nuclear stations. Perhaps demand side changes will be less apparent than supply side change. A provoking thought.

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