LONDON May 30 (Reuters) - Britain's electricity network operator National Grid is surveying soccer fans and analysing data to make sure it can respond to an expected surge in demand when UK viewers of the World Cup brew their traditional cup of half-time tea.
Electricity demand typically rises sharply after major events or following the climax of a popular tv programme when a large number of viewers collectively return to everyday business, including power-consuming habits such as switching on lights, computers - or the kettle.
The grid operator needs to forecast demand and supply as precisely as it can to prevent blackouts, which can result from sudden surges placing a big strain on the electricity network.
Britain has seen huge jumps in electricity consumption during past football games, with highest ever spike of 2,800 megawatts - equivalent to 1.1 million kettles - recorded after England lost the 1990 World Cup semi-final penalty shootout against West Germany.
Whether Brits will top the 24-year old record during this year's Brazil competition will depend on how far England make it through the tournament as late-stage games will attract bigger audiences, National Grid said.
"We'll be working throughout the tournament to make sure electricity supply and demand is balanced. It's vital we line up reserve generation to power up when it is needed," said John Young, energy forecasting analyst at National Grid.
National Grid are now quizzing British soccer fans about their match viewing habits, asking whether late kick off times would affect their watching patterns or where they expected to watch certain England games.
"We've been looking closely at historic data from previous tournaments, but we want to hear from football fans across the country to find out how and where they will watch the big games," Young said.
(Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by Sophie Walker)