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Posted: September 16, 2020

Lifting COVID-19 restrictions has impacted electricity use

A new BC Hydro report finds after an unprecedented drop in electricity demand due to COVID-19, overall power consumption in B.C. is trending upwards as a result of businesses reopening and British Columbians heading back to work.

The report titled “Powering through uncertainty: Shifting habits since COVID-19 restrictions were eased and what that means for future electricity demand in B.C.” finds about 40% of British Columbians indicated their daily routine has changed since stay-at-home measures were lifted in mid-June. Of those, about 20% said the change has been dramatic.

Of those indicating their routine has changed, more than 20% are now working from home less, and that has about a quarter waking up earlier and about 10% going to bed earlier. It also has about 10% showering more.

However, the biggest shift has been dining out – about 70% indicated they are now going out to eat in restaurants, with 40% doing so at least once a week. And more opportunities to go out means less time on the couch – 15% indicated they are now watching less TV or streaming less.

With more British Columbians back at work and spending less time at home, provincial electricity use has also steadily increased since mid-June as many businesses reopened.

At the end of March, overall electricity use declined by nearly 10%. Despite the large drop, this was less significant than what was happening in other parts of the world. The United Kingdom, France and Spain experienced 15 to 20% drops in overall power consumption. With businesses reopening, overall demand in August increased to seven per cent below BC Hydro’s pre-COVID-19 load forecast.

While overall electricity load is expected to remain lower than previously forecast over the next one to two years, it is expected to rebound in the long term because of population growth, fuel switching and the electrification of transportation, home heating, and industries that are dependent on fossil fuels.

To inform how BC Hydro will prepare for a variety of scenarios, it is putting together a long-term plan called Clean Power 2040 to determine how it will continue to deliver safe, clean electricity to customers over the next 20 years.

Although BC Hydro has enough electricity to power the province for several years, it needs to be prepared for what comes next and make contingency plans if demand is lower or higher than expected. The COVID-19 pandemic reconfirms how important it is to be prepared for a variety of scenarios.

BC Hydro

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