B.C. Hydro has recorded the steepest drop in energy demand since the 2008 recession, due to the impacts of COVID-19 in Western Canada.
Since mid-March, B.C. Hydro has experienced a near 10 per cent drop in overall electricity demand across the province. This doubles what was recorded during the 2008 recession, which saw a five per cent decrease in demand.
In a new report titled “Demand dilemma: How B.C. Hydro is responding to declining load and operational challenges resulting from COVID-19”, the hydro company says the decline is expected to continue in the coming months and could see a 12 per cent drop by April 2021.
“However, much uncertainty remains as electricity demand is largely dependent on BC’s relaxation of physical distancing measures, as well as on the global economic recovery, since so much of B.C.’s economic activity is linked to the economic activity of other provinces and nations,” the report reads.
While residential demand for electricity increased by seven per cent in the second half of March when physical distancing measures were first implemented, the demand has since flattened to be at or near normal levels of past years.
Much of the drop in demand is largely due to commercial and light industrial sectors — which saw a 20 per cent drop in April compared to March — with the largest declines linked to the closure of recreational facilities, restaurants, hotels and offices.
The drop in demand also comes at a time when B.C. Hydro’s reservoirs have historically reached capacity due to spring snowmelt and high inflows.
“This year, the spring freshet began in late April and is expected to last through to July,” reads the report.
“It is typical for B.C. Hydro to spill water from its smaller reservoirs during this time of year because inflows can exceed the capacity of the plant to generate electricity, or there is not enough demand for electricity to use all of the water that is flowing.
“However, the situation this year has been exacerbated by the unprecedented and sudden reduction in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
While controlled spilling of reservoirs is an effective way of managing demand, it requires that B.C. Hydro plan carefully ahead of reservoirs reaching capacity, to prevent flooding of areas downstream.
The report also notes that while decreased demand for power could result in a need to increase hydro rates to recoup costs, “B.C. Hydro is in a financially strong position that will allow it to manage through and emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and continue to provide reliable power to British Columbians.”
To handle the high supply and low demand, B.C. Hydro will shut down operations at smaller plants to reduce power generation, while also spilling water when needed at its Seven Mile and Revelstoke facilities.
It will also invoke contract provisions with some larger independent power producers to reduce its power purchases this spring.
Original Link: https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/covid-19-b-c-hydro-sees-steepest-drop-in-energy-demand-since-2008-recession