The FIFA World Cup 2010—a month-long soccer tournament that is arguably the biggest sports event on the planet—officially kicked off on Friday in South Africa. As grid operators and utilities all over the globe braced for power consumption surges, some governments went to lengths to enable fans to enjoy uninterrupted coverage of the matches.

UK’s National Grid Prepares for Power Surges During World Cup

UK grid operator National Grid said in a statement on Friday that it was gearing up to meet a tremendous surge in power demand during the televised matches.

If England reached the World Cup final and it culminated in a “nail-biting” match ending in penalties, demand could surge a record-breaking 3,000 MW, National Grid said. This could beat a previous record for a television program, set following the penalty shoot-out in the 1990 World Cup semifinal between England and West Germany.

The finding was part of a survey commissioned by National Grid. It also found that, despite the growth of pub big screens, 77% of people would be watching the first England v USA match at home, switching on kettles and opening fridge doors. “Only 7% of Scots and 36% of Welsh people will be supporting England, but hydro electric power stations in Scotland and Wales will play a key role in meeting the demand surges,” the company said.

Demand forecasts for England’s first-round matches are predicting surges of up to 1,300 MW at half time and full time, equivalent to a city the size of Newcastle turning on, it added.

Source: National Grid

Zimbabwe: No Load Shedding During World Cup

Zimbabwe’s Energy and Power Development Minister Elias Mudzuri reportedly told reporters at a press conference in Harare last week that the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) was working to ensure “equitable distribution of the limited power available to consumers to enable them to watch the World Cup.”

“I have directed ZESA to suspend disconnections to allow the public to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he told reporters, adding that the country would not export power to any country except South Africa. “Investors can participate in any form of generation project that they are competent in as independent power producers. We are ready to give licenses to such ventures.”

The county’s state media recently said that at least US$5.3 billion will be required to repair rundown power plants and build new ones to meet demand for electricity. Only one of three coal-fired power plants is operating because ZESA has no funds for repairs.

ZESA’s installed capacity amounts to 1,500 MW, but the country’s demand exceeds 2,700 MW. ZESA also allegedly struggles to import electricity from neighboring countries because of financial problems. Namibia helped repair generators at the Hwange Power Station, and Zimbabwe is repaying the loan through electricity exports.

Despite the directive to ZESA, the Chronicle reported on Monday that the utility had continued load-shedding. Senior officials told the newspaper that a halt to load-shedding was “impossible” given the supply shortfall.

Sources: Daily Nation, Chronicle

Bangladesh Asks Factories to Close for World Cup Viewing

The government of Bangladesh asked shops and shopping malls in the capital Dhaka to close in the evenings so there would be enough power for people to watch the World Cup on television. This follows a similar request to more than 5,000 mills and factories, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

The news agency said that angry viewers had attacked several power distribution centers on Saturday following a loss of transmission from the matches in South Africa. Some 30 people were injured in the incident, it reported.

“If the industries are kept closed, one-third of the electricity consumption will be saved and we can all enjoy the World Cup,” Alamgir Kabir, head of the Bangladesh Power Development Board, told the BBC. Businessmen have expressed worries about the request. They noted that the country was already in a power crunch: It had an installed capacity of nearly 3,700 MW of electricity against an estimated demand of about 5,200 MW.

Sources: BBC, Reuters

Venezuela Lifts Rationing Measures on Increased Supply, for World Cup

Venezuela, a country that relies on hydropower and which had been recently stricken by a power crisis following a severe drought, is to suspend an electricity rationing plan to ensure citizens can watch the World Cup.

President Hugo Chavez said that water levels at the Guri Dam—which supplies two-thirds of the nation’s power—had risen and new investments in thermoelectric plants had strengthened the grid, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Chavez’s government had implemented emergency power-saving measures this January, including rolling blackouts lasting two to four hours a day and ordering shopping malls and government offices to stay open half the day. Factories were forced to cut consumption by 20%, and Chavez had even asked citizens to save water in the shower to reserve more for hydropower plants.

Bloomberg Businessweek reported that the Venezuelan government plans to spend $4 billion this year to increase generation capacity by 5,000 MW.

Sources: POWER, Bloomberg Businessweek