THE nation's grim determination to stay warm in the big freeze has broken electricity records.
A big sports match or a national event is usually blamed for steep power surges but the cold weather can claim the credit this time.
Power use peaked at 5.45pm on Thursday as people coming home from work harnessed more electricity than ever before in this country.
Eirgrid, which operates the national power system said demand on Thursday and in the early hours of yesterday morning set new records for midday and night-time use of electricity.
As temperatures plunged as low as -12C in some parts of the country, householders used 4,950 MW of electricity on Thursday's evening peak, up from a previous record of 4,906 MW in December 2007.
Normally demand would peak in the week before or after Christmas, and it was clear that the reason for this week's record was down to more people getting home early and using electricity to heat up, said Eirgrid spokesman Mike Kelly.
"Typically you get people coming in from the cold, and maybe turning on the electric shower or the immersion heater, the electric oven and the TV, all of which use up a lot of power. You're also getting all the family at home at once, and they'll all be in different rooms, with the computer on in one and a TV in another, it all adds up.
"Usually on a Thursday evening you'd get people out doing late night shopping or going out, but clearly everyone was just heading home this week," he said.
Although electricity use always plummets in the early hours, a new "winter night valley" record had also been set at 5am yesterday as more people kept heating on all night or set immersions to come on early, Mr Kelly added.
However, there had been no difficulty meeting the extra demand as substantial levels of power generation were held in reserve and the icy conditions had not caused any breakdowns, he said. Overall electricity demand had fallen sharply in the last year due to the recession.
Bord Gais announced they would provide €1m towards the gas bills of those most in need as a result of the prolonged cold weather. They would donate this money towards the St Vincent de Paul and Alone to pass on to vulnerable customers who needed help with their fuel bills.
"We are conscious that the very cold weather has meant that customers need to use more gas to stay warm," said Bord Gais managing director David Bundworth.
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