June 12, 2018 / 6:35 PM / 4 months ago

Brazil power grid braces for demand swings during World Cup games

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The Brazilian government has prepared the country’s power grid to deal with the wild swings in demand for electricity as most people in the soccer-mad country tune out everything except their televisions to watch the national team play in the Fifa 2018 World Cup.

Power lines are decorated with the colors of the Brazilian flag ahead of the 2018 World Cup, at Vila Isabel neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil June 11, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

Brazil comes to a near paralysis when the “seleção”, winner of a record five trophies, plays for the World Cup. Power demand falls sharply close to the start of the games, then surges during halftime breaks as people rush to grab a drink in the refrigerator or make microwave-popcorn. As play resumes, power demand falls sharply again.

Power lines are decorated with the colors of the Brazilian flag ahead of the 2018 World Cup, at Vila Isabel neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil June 11, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

“Such events cause system behavior that is totally different from normal days,” said Álvaro Fleury Veloso da Silveira, IT director at national grid operator ONS. “But we are used to it,” he said.

Brazilians abandon their daily routines on World Cup game days for the national team. Schools change class times or cancel them altogether. Companies let employees go home early or set up televisions so people can watch in the workplace.

Power lines are decorated with the colors of the Brazilian flag ahead of the 2018 World Cup, at Vila Isabel neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil June 11, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

The Fifa 2018 World Cup starts on Thursday in Russia. Brazilians celebrate national team game days like holidays, with people getting together to party whenever possible.

To guarantee sufficient electricity for sudden surges in demand, Silveira says more power plants than normal are put on alert, prepared to boost production if necessary.

Other soccer-crazy nations, such as the United Kingdom, have similar preparations in place.

In Brazil, the swings in demand can reach up to 11,000 megawatts, for instance when a game finishes in the evening and people go back to their routines at the same time public lighting is turned on.

Writing by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by David Gregorio

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