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Staying at home: demands up or down?

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

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing many aspects of our lives. For many, it may mean lost work and for others working from home, for a while at least. Is this reflected in the demand we see on the grid?

We examined the “Operating Demand” (the demand as measured on the transmission network) by comparing the average demand for the five working days of last week, compared to the average of the five working days for the same week during the previous five years. We also adjusted for rooftop solar production, which has grown significantly over the last five years.

Looking at the shape of the demand curve (by normalising by the peak demand), we can see if there has been any relative change in the pattern of consumption over the day. The charts in Figure 1 show relatively higher demands in NSW and VIC from around 5pm. We see a similar pattern in other states.

Figure 1: Normalised daily load profiles for NSW and Victoria for the third week of March

In absolute terms, the Monday-Friday average demand and average peak demand for the third week of March this year and back to 2015 is shown in Table 1. This indicates that the average demand last week was lower than in previous years in NSW, QLD and TAS (not shown) but higher in VIC and SA. The average peak demand for last week is lower than the average peak in the last five years for all states.

Table 1: Average and peak demand (MW) measured at the transmission system

So what does these data mean? First, so far there is no evidence to suggest that staying at home will increase peak demands, at least as measured on the transmission system. To the contrary in fact. Second, the load profile shifts suggest relatively more consumption in the evenings. But, it is early days, and we will update these calculations as new information becomes available.


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