When a National Tea Addiction Wreaks Havoc on the UK’s Power Plants

Wednesday November 15, 2017 Written by Genevieve

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We all know how tea flows through British veins, as in – at the end of every EastEnders episode, around 1.5 million kettles are flipped on simultaneously across the nation. Tea has powered the empire and moulded the British psyche into the shape of a big old teacup. But never in our wildest dreams could we have guessed that the poms are as barmy for their leafy brew as this: the phenomena that England’s electricity providers call “TV pickup”. It’s what happens whenever there’s a popular show or special TV event and during the ad breaks, or at the end of the program, millions make their tea at the same time. To give you a sense of the scale of this mass, synchronised, hot beverage event, electricity providers have to anticipate these peak tea-times and employ backup power stations across the country, and even in France, to avoid power outages.

Even more amusing is the list of programs that have caused the most serious meltdowns. Major sporting events and royal weddings are of course among the biggest catalysts, but overwhelmingly, energy providers have learned to be hypervigilant for important episodes of EastEnders or Coronation Street.  

Admittedly, the advent of online streaming has eased the situation in recent years. Even though the number of spikes has stayed the same, the intensity of each spike has diminished. “They are much, much smaller than they were. The way people watch TV has meant that they have come down in size,” Jeremy Caplain, forecasting manager of the National Grid, told The Telegraph. Sounds like a score for those hardworking energy providers, who’ve definitely earned themselves a nice, relaxing cuppa tea (and perhaps a sneaky spot of catch-up EastEnders).