Sunday, January 05, 2014

Power and glory: white smoke from Vatican sparked national grid plunge wasn't a sporting event, political moment or even the final episode of 'Love/Hate' that made us all down tools and stop using the vast bulk of our electrical appliances last year. 

The election of Pope Francis as head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics on March 13 generated the biggest drop in electricity demand recorded in 2013.

Meanwhile, the national grid operator reported that a record amount of Ireland's electricity need was generated by wind turbines in the blustery weather before Christmas.

EirGrid said such was the interest in the election of the Catholic church's 266th pontiff last March that enough power for 90,000 homes dropped off the system.

In all, demand for power fell by 142MW (megawatts), 3pc of total demand at the time, an EirGrid spokesman said.

The reduction began at 6.07pm, Irish time, when white smoke appeared above the Vatican indicating a new pope had been chosen. With the news broadcast around the world on radio, television and on internet sites, people began flocking to their TVs.

Just over an hour later at 7.12pm, as electricity demand plummeted across the country, Cardinal Protodeacon Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran appeared on the balcony of St Peter's Square to announce that the little-known Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires would become the first ever Jesuit pope.

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