Video: Understanding Seasonal Changes in Electricity Demand

Electricity demand increases over winter. Which of the following reasons best explains why that is? [A] Electricity is cheaper in winter, so people switch from heating their homes with gas or oil to heating their homes using electric heaters. [B] Many electrical appliances are less efficient in colder temperatures. Thus a greater electricity supply is needed for the same appliances to work as well. [C] During winter, the weather is colder and it gets darker earlier in the evening. Demand for electricity increases because electrical appliances are being used to heat and light homes for a while longer each day. [D] People stay indoors more in winter and therefore spend more time doing activities that involve electrical appliances, such as watching television.

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Video Transcript

Electricity demand increases over winter. Which of the following reasons best explains why that is?

Now, we’ve been given four reasons here. So let’s go through them one by one and see which one is correct.

Number one Electricity is cheaper in winter, so people switch from heating their homes with gas or oil to heating their homes using electric heaters.

Well, this one is not true. Electricity is not cheaper in winter. In fact, sometimes, because of the increased demand, electricity can become a bit more expensive in winter plus the other statement assumes that a lot of people are heating their homes with gas or oil and this is not really the case anymore.

And also during summer, why would you want to heat your house in the first place? Houses are usually hot enough to not need heating during the summer months. And this is also true for a lot of spring and autumn. So for these reasons, number one is not the answer to our question. So let’s move on to number two.

“Many electrical appliances are less efficient in colder temperatures. Thus a greater electricity supply is needed for the same appliances to work as well.”

Well, this one’s not true either. In most cases, an appliance’s efficiency has nothing to do with the temperature in which it operates. And certainly, if there are devices that are less efficient in winter, then the efficiency differences are not large enough to warrant such a difference in the amount of electricity supply. Therefore, this statement is not our answer either.

So number three then, “During winter, the weather is colder and it gets darker earlier in the evening. Demand for electricity increases because electrical appliances are being used to heat and light homes for a while longer each day.”

Now, this statement makes sense. We know that the weather is colder in winter; that’s why it’s the winter. And also, we have fewer hours of daylight during the day. Hence, it gets darker earlier in the evening. So let’s say in summer, it gets dark around seven pm. So at that point, we switch on the lights to light our houses. However, in the winter, let’s say it gets dark around five pm. Well, we switch on the lights then. So we’re spending an extra two hours lighting our houses every day.

Not only that, but it’s colder in the winter. So we need to use electric heaters to heat our houses. And this is something we don’t necessarily need to do in the summer, especially if it’s a warm day. Therefore, it’s the combination of the lower temperatures and the earlier dark hours that result in an increased demand for electricity over the winter.

So this one looks like it’s the right answer. But let’s go for number four anyway just to make sure.

So number four people stay indoors more in winter and therefore spend more time doing activities that involve electrical appliances, such as watching television.

Well, this statement is not technically incorrect. People do tend to spend more time indoors during winter time and inevitably this does result in more electrical appliances being used. But the effect of this is no way near as large as the effect of the colder weather and the earlier dark hours. So we can safely roll this one out as well.

And hence, we have our final answer. The reason that electricity demand increases over winter is that during winter, the weather is colder and it gets darker earlier in the evening. So the demand for electricity increases because electrical appliances are being used to heat and light homes for a while longer each day.

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