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Coronavirus-related drop in power demand leads to tricky situation for BC Hydro

Last Updated May 11, 2020 at 12:31 pm PDT

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Summary

BC Hydro figuring out how to safely spill extra water in its reservoirs as it sees a 10 per cent decline in power usage

Extra snowmelt is typically used to generate power for BC Hydro customers, however, there's been a decline in demand

Spilling water does create some risk for the nearby fish populations

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As it sees a nearly 10 per cent decline in power use, BC Hydro is trying to figure out how to safely spill an excess of water in some of its reservoirs.

In an average year, it’s usually much busier. A decrease in demand, “high inflows” from spring snowmelt, and a limited export market amid the crisis mean there a surplus in BC Hydro’s system, the utility explains.


“Further adding to its surplus challenges is the majority of the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) it has agreements with are producing the most amount of energy at this time of year – accounting for about 29 per cent of BC Hydro’s total generation,” a BC Hydro release reads.

It will now need to figure out how to safely spill that extra water, while not hurting the fish populations or infrastructure near some of its facilities.


BC Hydro will also be shutting down operations at some of its smaller plants to try and fix the problem.

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


BC Hydro notes electricity demand could see a further drop, with decreases of up to 12 per cent by April of next year. That would represent more than double the decline BC Hydro saw for electricity demand after the recession of 2008.