Canadian electricity demand declines in key provinces in wake of COVID-19 lockdown

The three largest provincial power markets in Canada – Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta – consume more than 70% of the country’s total electricity supply. Since the implementation of the country’s COVID-19 lockdown measures all three provinces have experienced a decline in electricity consumption principally due to reduced loads from industrial and commercial customers according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Quebec is the largest producer and consumer of electricity in Canada, consuming approximately 35% of the country’s total demand, and has seen a 6% decline in electricity demand year on year during the lockdown period. Ontario, the second largest electricity consumer in Canada, accounting for almost 27% of the total electricity generated, has seen the daily-average electricity demand fall by *7.91% since lockdown. Electricity loads in Alberta dropped by 10% in the five weeks from March 16, 2020, compared to the previous year.

In addition to managing changing levels in electricity demand, Power utilities across Canada are experiencing project delays due to supply chain issues with vital equipment. Canada is largely dependent on power equipment imports from China and the shutting down of the Chinese economy has affected the sourcing and supply of power equipment, particularly in the Canadian renewable and transmission projects space.

Somik Das, Senior Power Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The Canadian economy has also had to contend with the impact of the fall in oil prices as interest rates and the Canadian dollar fell as a result. Traditional logic suggests that a low oil price is bad news for the renewables energy sector as it will make energy transition to cleaner fuels difficult and unviable in the short term with current economic conditions also increasing  the cost of capital for renewable projects.

“To address the headwinds facing the Canadian energy sector, the government is bringing in relief measures to assist stakeholders in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors.”

As a relief measure to families, small businesses, and farms; and to facilitate the work-from-home population, the Ontario Electricity Board has suspended its time-of-use pricing.

Das adds: “Although electricity consumption in Canada will recover from its current lows in the second half of the year, post-recovery electricity consumption in the country is expected to decline by 1-2% in 2020.”

* From March 18 to April 28, 2020, the average demand stood at 13.36 GW in Ontario, a 7.91% fall compared to the same period in 2019.

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