Electricity consumption level plummets

  • Close correlation: the relative changes in residential and commercial electricity sales volume, and jobs filled in Bermuda, in two-year increments since the base year of 2009. Matching “jobs filled” information for 2019 is not yet available (Graph by Scott Neil)

    Close correlation: the relative changes in residential and commercial electricity sales volume, and jobs filled in Bermuda, in two-year increments since the base year of 2009. Matching “jobs filled” information for 2019 is not yet available (Graph by Scott Neil)

Bermuda’s power consumption has dropped to its lowest level in 20 years, The Royal Gazette can reveal.

Economic activity and population size have historically been linked to the amount of electricity generated by power supplier Belco and used on the island.

Since peak energy was reached in 2009, residential consumption has fallen by 14 per cent and commercial usage has dropped by 20 per cent.

The reduction meant that Belco’s annual output of energy has dipped below 600 million kilowatt hours for the first time this century.

More efficient usage, along with renewable power generation by customers alternative power sources such as solar panels, accounted for some of the reduced demand.

Shifts in population size and economic activity have historically been reflected in variations to energy consumption.

Belco statistics showed that commercial customers’ energy consumption last year fell to its lowest level this century, at 263 million kWh, a 19 per cent drop from 2009.

Residential customers’ usage has fallen 14.1 per cent since a peak in 2010.

The energy company’s total generated electricity, which includes residential, commercial, and government customers, was highest in 2009.

It was at its lowest level this century last year when it dropped 19 per cent in a decade to 598.1 million kWh.

A portion of last year’s drop can be attributed to Belco’s new battery storage system, which created a reserve of ten megawatts of power that can be used if there is a power generation fault.

Belco in the past covered back-up requirements by running spinning reserve engines.

The correlation between Belco’s energy consumption figures, and the island’s population size and economic activity, measured by jobs filled, can be seen in statistics from the past two decades.

The numbers rose to peaks in the late 2000s, before it declined in a mostly sustained manner.

Bermuda’s estimated population reached 65,811 in 2009 and 2008 was the peak year for jobs filled at 40,213.

But the population fell by 2.8 per cent and jobs filled plunged by 15.9 per cent by 2018.

The population and occupied jobs information was taken from the Bermuda Government’s Digest of Statistics.

Comparable data for 2019 is not yet available.

The island’s economic slump after the global financial markets crisis of 2008 led to annual decreases in electricity sales.

Belco said in 2013 that it was due to a smaller residential population and reduced commercial activity, as well as increased energy conservation.

Economic headwinds and the growing use of renewable energy by customers have continued to impact Belco’s electricity sales.

The firm had about 500 customers feeding five megawatts of energy into the grid from small-scale renewable sources, mainly rooftop solar panels, in 2018.

Belco said there had been diminished sales volume last year in figures published in March and that “the deployment of rooftop solar continues to impact sales across all customer classes, with an uplift in the number of systems deployed as well as expansions to existing systems”.

Belco’s sales volume is likely to be hit further as a result of “economic headwinds” and the six megawatt solar farm on “The Finger” peninsula at the airport, which is now licensed to operate.

Sean Durfy, the chief executive of Ascendant, Belco’s parent company, said last month as the first-quarter results were released: “Bermuda continued to face economic headwinds during the quarter, which led to the multiyear trend of lower electricity demand.”

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Published Jun 1, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Jun 1, 2020 at 10:23 am)

Electricity consumption level plummets

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