Is demand declining in the NEM as COVID-19 bites?

By Steven Percy, VEPC Research Fellow, and Bruce Mountain, VEPC Director

We have now completed the first full week of the widespread implementation of a policy to work from home where possible. In Europe, similar policy has resulted in a week-on-week energy demand reduction of 2–7%, as reported here.

We examined the “Operating Demand” (the demand as measured on the transmission network) and adjusted it for rooftop solar production, in the NEM regions for COVID Week 1 (16–20 March), COVID Week 2 (23–27 March) and historical weekday demand covering these weeks.

The results in Figure 1 show that daytime demand has clearly fallen for New South Wales and Queensland while remaining less affected for Victoria and South Australia, while Tasmania, last week, saw an increase compared to previous years. As we set out in our previous article Covid-19: Staying at home – will demand go up or down?’, demand is rising later in the morning and peaking a little later. Evidently, without the need to go to work, demand is rising later.

Nevertheless as you look across the states you will see that besides this, there is in fact no consistent change. As COVID up-ends our world, are households, commerce and industry in Queensland and Tasmania responding differently to those in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia?

Figure 1: Weekday daily average load profiles for COVID Week 1, COVID Week 2 and equivalent weeks 2015–2019

Comparing COVID Week 2 with the average for the same week in 2015–2019, Table 1 shows that consumption has only fallen a little in NSW and QLD and increased elsewhere. Peak demand has fallen in Week 2 for all states except TAS. This is robust to the inclusion of weekends.

Table 1: Percentage change in weekday consumption and peak demand

While peak demand reductions are quite large, stricter isolation may see further reduction. However, with cooler months approaching this may change as more people try to keep warm at home during the day.