British Columbian’s power utility may need to turn off its smaller plants amid an unprecedented dip in electricity usage during the pandemic.
In a report released Monday, BC Hydro said it’s seeing a 10 per cent decrease in electricity use since mid-March and is projecting a 12 per cent drop by April 2021. If the decrease occurs, it would be double the decline seen during the 2008 recession.
Broken down, B.C. saw commercial and industrial energy demand drop by 20 per cent and seven per cent, respectively, in April compared to March. Residential use dipped in March but has since gone up to regular levels.
Chief among BC Hydro’s concerns is the possibility of spills from its reservoirs.
“If not addressed proactively, the growing capacity could lead to large and prolonged spills from its facilities, creating potential environmental risks and impacts to BC Hydro infrastructure,” the report stated.
Prolonged spills could harm fish through high total dissolved gas pressure downstream, as fish are only able to find refuge during shorter spills.
“This means prolonged, excessive spilling can increase fish mortality rates,” the report said.
The utility said it was immediately shutting down operations at some of its smaller plants and spilling water at facilities such as Seven Mile and Revelstoke to balance energy production and real-time usage. Powerex—BC Hydro’s trading subsidiary—will export electricity to other jurisdictions, although the report acknowledged that may be difficult as many areas are seeing a dip in power usage.
B.C. is not the only jurisdiction seeing a dip in energy use. A report from the International Energy Agency found global daily electricity demand has declined by 15 per cent.