The impact of lockdown on business gas usage

AMR (Automated Meter Reading) devices provide daily, or even sometimes half-hourly, readings to your gas provider, ensuring that you are billed accurately and removing the manual aspects of having to provide a read. In conjunction with other data such as business type and the expected usage of a site, they’re also a powerful analytical tool that can provide insight into the performance of key business sectors such as manufacturing and hospitality.

Analytics Manager, Samantha Potter, looks at the data from the first 10 days of the second national lockdown.

The above graph shows the actual usage for a sample of around 3000 sites, as a percentage of what the site is expected to use for this time of year, shown as the blue dashed line. Also on the graph is the temperature anomaly as a dotted red line, showing whether the average temperature for the week was warmer (a positive value) or cooler (a negative value) than expected for this time of year. On top of this are three and four week moving averages for the expected usage, which helps us to smooth out the peaks caused by weather fluctuations, and can give a better view of the overall trend of the data (much like the data provided by the government relating to COVID-19 testing).

Following the start of the second national lockdown on the 3rd November, we can see that overall usage is decreasing against what we would expect to see for this time of year. Whilst it is difficult to separate the effects of the second lockdown from the influence of the weather, we can see that the overall trend is a decrease in usage when looking at the three and four week averages. To further examine the effects of the lockdown, it’s best to look at sectors individually.

The above graph shows some example business sectors that are worth examining in more detail. For example, Human Health and Social Work activities tend to move in line with the temperature outside, i.e. if it’s warmer outside than usual, they are using less than we expect them to, likely due to reduced heating needs. The other sectors in the graph such as Arts, Entertainment and Recreation, and Accommodation and Food Service Activities have likely been hit the hardest by the second lockdown as a result of forced closures and the resulting reduced activity. Within the food sector, we can examine particular business types, such as those described below.

A closer look at the specific business types shows that the pub sector has shown the biggest decrease since the previous week in terms of what they are expected to use at this time of year. With the second lockdown, it’s possible that the remaining usage is almost entirely the bare minimum usage for heating, not that much was needed last week compared to what we would expect for this time of year! A similar significant drop was observed for licensed restaurants, also likely due to the forced closures. Takeaways and unlicensed restaurants and cafes usage has held fairly steady over the last few weeks, and seem to be relatively unscathed overall by the second lockdown.