(Warning: this post contains Kevin maths… So it’s almost certainly way of the mark)

Energy, and how we (as in, the consumers) are all to blame, has been in the news this week; I’m skipping for a moment the fact that it’s them (the big companies) who make the TV’s, that use more power in standby… Instead, I got all obsessed about light bulbs. I read a piece on the Beeb about banning light bulbs (the traditional ones, not all light bulbs the world – it would be quite dark, then), and I subsequently followed this up by looking at banthebulb.org (a bit of a disappointing website; will the fact it looks naff affect the message? I fear it might). It’s a good basic idea: either ban those bulbs, or if that is too scary for Government, then put a tax on them.

Some of the figures where very interesting, if with a bit of an American bias: replacing 3 light bulbs in every U.S. home with energy saving ones would save the equivalent of 11 power stations.

At this point I got all obsessed: how many light bulbs does it take to replace a UK power station?


Well it turns out that’s hard to answer. The energy saving bit isn’t too hard (maths bit coming up! All via Google).

One 60 W light bulb on for one hour, uses 0.06 Kilowatt hours.

If we say this light is on for 5 hours a day, every day (not outrageous for a hall/bedroom light), we get 109.5 Kilowatt hours a year. The equivalent for an 12 watt energy saving bulb comes in at 21.9 kilowatt hours, which is a saving of 87.6 kilowatt hours per bulb. Which apparently (although I couldn’t get a straight answer) is around ?7 a year saving.

Now the tricky bit is how much power does a power station produce?


The answer is not as simple as you may think. For example Longannet power station in Scotland is rated at 2,304 MW, which should produce 20,183 GWh (Giga Watt hours) of power per year, except it doesn’t because that would mean running the plant at full power all year, and it would probably blow up (or break down lots). So in fact Longannet power station produces around 10,417 GWh of power a year. This discrepancy is true for most forms of power – that’s why the number of wind turbines required to replace a power station varies massively, depending on whom you ask.

Still with this number of 10,417 GWh, how many light bulbs is that? Well it’s 118,915,535 which is around 2 light bulbs per person in the UK. Which is a lot really, but wait… Longannet power station is massive, it’s the second largest coal power station in the country. Is there a smaller one we can replace?

Power stations I can find figures for (it’s quite hard)

  • Cockenzie power station. In 2000-2001 it produced 3563 GWh of electricity. That would only take 40,673,516 light bulbs!
  • Closer to home, in the year 2000 Fiddlers Ferry, produced 7,300 GWh of power (which was 2.3% of the UK’s power needs) which, assuming I’ve got my sums right, equates to 83.3 million light bulbs.

My plan, that will never get of the ground, is the campaign to replace a power station with light bulbs. Simple really; if everyone in the UK replaced one light bulb in their home with an energy saving one, we could replace a power station. Based on the 2001 census figure of 24,479,439 households in the UK, we could save 2144 GWh of electricity a year, which isn’t quite any of the power stations I’ve found so far, but most of them are big, so if the figures were more readily available, I’m sure I could find a power station somewhere in the UK that we could replace with light bulbs.

I’ve found a report, that states,”Replacing the four most highly-used bulbs, in fixtures identified as suitable, would save around 200 kWh”. If that was done in all 24,479,439 UK households; we could save 4,895.8 GWh of electricity, which is more than is produced by Cockenzie power station.

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