A new report from BC Hydro shows that people are watching more TV during the pandemic (and are showering less). (Photo credit: Stock image)

Electricity use shows that in pandemic, every day is like Saturday

A BC Hydro survey shows that while we're not using more electricity, when we use it has changed

Getting up later than normal and having a late breakfast. Showering less often and for shorter periods of time. Watching more TV, and going to bed later. It sounds like many people’s vacation schedule, but it has been the everyday reality for many during the COVID-19 pandemic, as documented by a new report from BC Hydro which finds that COVID-19 has changed people’s routines enough that for many people, every day feels like Saturday.

While residential power usage during the pandemic has remained average, the report — “Powering the new normal: How COVID-19 has changed British Columbians’ daily habits and electricity use” — finds that since mid-March, nearly 90 per cent of British Columbians have drastically shifted their daily routines, including nearly 40 per cent who say that they are working at home five days a week.

While overall residential electricity use is at normal levels for this time of year, BC Hydro data shows that the changes to British Columbians’ daily habits have resulted in weekday electricity use peaking later in the morning and earlier in the evening; so much so that it now more closely resembles typical weekend patterns.

A survey included in the report found that with many people not commuting to work or school, nearly 40 per cent of British Columbians are waking up later on weekdays, with 60 per cent of those people waking up more than an hour later than they normally would. That means a delayed start to the daily grind: nearly 45 per cent of British Columbians said they are eating breakfast at a later time, and 24 per cent said they are showering less often and for shorter periods of time in the morning than they used to.

This all means that the early morning electricity load is increasing at a slower rate than usual, and plateaus around 9 a.m. Instead of tapering off as people head out to work and school, the load rises moderately until after lunch, and peaks around 1 p.m., then dips, perhaps because people are going out to shop, run errands, or get some fresh air: a pattern more typical of weekends, especially Sundays.

The survey also found that being home on weekdays has changed the frequency and timing of cooking, contributing to an earlier evening electricity peak. Almost half of those surveyed said they are cooking more now than they were pre-pandemic, and almost a quarter are making dinner earlier these days. In addition, around 40 per cent are baking more.

With limited opportunities for entertainmen, British Columbians are turning to traditional television or to streaming services to stay entertained. The survey found around 60 per cent are watching more than they were pre-pandemic, with 15 per cent watching more during the day on weekdays. People are also using the time to catch up on TV shows: 67 per cent of those surveyed said they have finished watching at least one TV series since the pandemic began.

Increased TV time might also be delaying bedtime: 30 per cent of those surveyed are going to bed later, and of those, nearly 80 per cent are going to bed more than an hour later than they used to.

For customers looking to save energy and money during this unusual time, BC Hydro has a few recommendations:

· Use a laptop, which uses 80 per cent less electricity than a desktop computer.

· Use task lighting rather than turning on additional overhead lights.

· Cook with smaller appliances, such as multi-use pressure cookers, microwaves, and toaster ovens that use up to 75 per cent less energy than a large electric oven.

· Stream movies or TV shows on a device like a smart TV instead of a game console, as the former uses 40 per cent less electricity.

British Columbians facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 can apply for the COVID-19 Relief Fund until June 30. For more information, visit www.bchydro.com/covid19relief.

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