British Columbia

BC Hydro electricity demand down 10% amid COVID-19 pandemic

BC Hydro crews are spilling reservoirs to prevent them from reaching capacity; demand decline could continue into April 2021.

Hydro crews are spilling reservoirs to prevent them from reaching capacity

A BC Hydro report says electricity demand has dropped by about ten per cent, and the decline could continue into April 2021. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Elecricity demand is down 10 per cent across the province, an unprecedented decline sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a BC Hydro report.

Power demand across hotels, offices, recreational facilities and restaurants have dwindled as British Columbians self isolate.

The shortfall means there's a surplus of water in reservoirs across the province.

"This drop in load in addition to the spring snow melt is causing our reservoirs to reach near capacity, which could lead to environmental concerns, as well as public safety risks if we don't address the challenges now," said spokesperson Tanya Fish.

Crews will have to strategically spill reservoirs to keep them from overflowing, a process that can have negative impacts on downstream ecosystems. Excessive spilling can increase fish mortality rates.

Spilling is currently underway at the Seven Mile and Revelstoke reservoirs. In addition, several small plants have been shut down.

Facilities in Revelstoke are among those that will be spilled by crews to prevent reservoirs from reaching capacity. (BC Hydro)

Site C and hydro rates

According to the report, titled Demand Dilemma, the decline could continue into April 2021 and drop by another two per cent.

Major industry — forestry, mining and oil and gas — accounts for about 30 per cent of BC Hydro's overall electricity load. Energy demand from these customers has dropped by seven per cent since mid-March.

BC Hydro says a prolonged drop in demand could have an impact on future rates, which could potentially go up as the power provider looks to recoup financial losses.

Fish said the crown corporation still expects there to be increased demand in the long-term. She said construction of the Site C Dam is continuing as planned. There are currently nearly 1,000 workers on-site.

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