BC Hydro sees significant drop in electricity demand during pandemic

May 11 2020, 12:13 pm

BC Hydro says it is experiencing an “unprecedented” drop in power usage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a new report, BC Hydro says the pandemic has resulted in a nearly 10% decrease in electricity demand in the province.

“With more British Columbians at home, residential energy demand initially increased by around 7% in late March compared to last year. However, residential demand has since flattened to be at or near normal levels of previous years,” said BC Hydro in the report.

As businesses across the province have shuttered, commercial and light industrial sectors have seen a 20% decrease in energy demand in April compared to March, with recreational facilities, restaurants, hotels, and offices seeing the biggest decline.

Another issue comes with the “significant inflows from the spring freshet (snowmelt) this year,” which will now need to be managed.

BC Hydro says typically when there is an overflow of power in the system, its trading subsidiary, Powerex, exports the electricity to other jurisdictions.

The “reduced load” in different jurisdictions is now resulting in lower demand from BC Hydro, and this is “particularly problematic in the spring freshet.”

To adapt to the changes, BC Hydro says it will be taking immediate action by shutting down operations at some smaller plants, spilling water at some facilities to balance generation, reducing generation from other sources, and attempting to export electricity to other jurisdictions via Powerex.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created an extraordinary situation with our system that we’re working to address,” said Chris O’Riley, BC Hydro president and CEO, in a statement.

“We’re confident that through these measures, we’ll be able to avoid the public safety and environmental risks that would be created by excessive spilling at our facilities.”