Peak Demand

Turning Up the Heat and Peak Demand

Every winter morning, we wake up, turn up the heat, take hot showers, make breakfast, and turn on appliances, gadgets and devices before heading out for the day. In the evenings, we return home and run through a similar routine of cooking, running appliances, using hot water, watching television and using our home computers and devices until bedtime. These daily routines create electrical consumption peaks between 7:00 to 9:00 am and 5:00 to 7:00 pm.

What is peak demand?

Peak is the highest one-hour load requirement on the electric system. The lower or warmer the exterior temperature, the more electricity we use to stay warm or cooler in our homes and businesses. A peak demand charge is calculated through the wholesale power purchase agreement Nelson Hydro has with FortisBC. Peak demand charges occur when a new high or maximum demand of energy has been hit by Nelson Hydro customers. This typically occurs on the coldest day(s) of the year from 5:00 to 7:00 pm during winter months. When the maximum or peak is set, the power agreement automatically calculates electricity charges at that level for 11 months. So the less our customers use, the less money we pay to FortisBC, and the less charges we pass along to our customers. 

2022 and 2024 Peak Demand Charges

The coldest day of both 2022 and 2023 occurred on December 22, 2022, at 5:00 am. The temperatures dropped to -20.2°C. By 5:00 pm that same day, Nelson Hydro hit a new peak demand of 41,880 kVA. This new peak increased our power purchase price from FortisBC by $153,000 over 11 months into 2023. This was $13.55 per customer. Click on the chart below to get a closer look at the 2022 data.

On January 13th, 2024 Nelson Hydro hit a new peak demand at 6:00 pm of 45,393 kVA. This new peak will increase the power purchase budget by an additional $530,000 over the next 11 months of 2024 due to the record-breaking cold weather experienced that day. This is $46.86 per customer. These peak demand charges impact all customers eventually as budget shortfalls need to be recovered. 

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Why is peak demand important?

Reducing your energy load during peak power times is beneficial to everyone and can actually save you money. When we reduce peak demand charges from FortisBC, Nelson Hydro's power purchase budget for wholesale electricity is reduced. This also reduces the likelihood that electric rates are increased. Try to save your dishes, laundry, and EV charging until the later evening or overnight.

Why doesn't Nelson Hydro just make more power?

Water that flows down the Kootenay River is 100% allocated by the BC Controller of Water Rights to BCHydro, FortisBC and Nelson Hydro. Nelson Hydro has been granted 2,963cfs of the 46,023cfs of the hydrogeneration output of the Kootenay River. There is no option to increase our water license. We generate electricity to the maximum amount permitted within our water licence, and then the remainder of the electricity is purchased from FortisBC.

What should I do?

By making small changes in our energy routine, we can spread our use of electricity throughout the day and beat the peak without compromising comfort or convenience. Small changes at home can reduce your monthly bill and the load on our system at peak times. Reducing your power bill doesn't always require major investments. Here are some inexpensive ways to save energy and lower your electricity costs:

  • Unplug Electronics: Many electronics consume energy even when turned off. Unplug chargers, appliances, and electronic devices when not in use to eliminate "phantom" or standby power consumption. Use power strips to easily turn off multiple devices at once. This is especially useful for electronics that continue to draw power when in standby mode.
  • Energy-Efficient Lighting: Replace incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient options like LED or CFL bulbs. They use less energy and last longer.
  • Seal Leaks: Ensure that doors and windows are properly sealed to prevent drafts. Use weather stripping or draft stoppers to seal gaps, keeping warm or cool air inside.
  • Adjust Thermostat Settings: Lower your thermostat in the winter and raise it in the summer. Wear appropriate clothing and use blankets to stay comfortable. Consider installing a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust temperatures when you're not at home.
  • Regular HVAC Maintenance: Keep your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system well-maintained. Clean or replace air filters regularly and schedule professional maintenance to ensure optimal efficiency.
  • Use Fans: Ceiling fans and portable fans can help circulate air, making you feel cooler in the summer and allowing you to lower your thermostat.
  • Energy-Efficient Appliances: When purchasing new appliances, look for the Energy Star label, which indicates energy efficiency. Over time, energy-efficient appliances can save you money on your power bill. Look for appliance rebates from FortisBC at  Rebates & Offers | FortisBC.
  • Limit Hot Water Usage: Lower your water heater's temperature and fix any leaks promptly. Consider using cold water for laundry, taking shorter showers, and having a bath later in the evening.
  • Cook Efficiently: Use small appliances like microwaves or toaster ovens for cooking small meals. Match the size of your cookware to the size of the burner on the stove.
  • Natural Lighting: Take advantage of natural light during the day to reduce the need for artificial lighting. 
  • Educate Household Members: Encourage everyone in your household to be mindful of energy usage. Simple habits, like turning off lights and appliances when not needed, can make a difference.

For home upgrades like improving insulation or replacing old windows, help is available through a variety of provincial and federal energy-saving grants and programs. All RDCK and City of Nelson residents are eligible for energy rebates through FortisBC and they are welcome to register for the Regional Energy Efficiency Program (formerly EcoSave) for more information and support. To learn more, please visit: www.nelson.ca/ecosave

I've been making changes, but don't see a major difference in my bill. Why's that?

Your electricity consumption includes many factors: the weather, the number of people in your household, your home and appliance's energy efficiency rating, and how you heat your home (gas, electric or wood). For Nelson Hydro, every bit of electrical savings helps avoid those new peak demand charges. So your efforts are appreciated. To learn more about getting your home's energy efficiency rating, please register for the Regional Energy Efficiency Program (formerly EcoSave) at  www.nelson.ca/ecosave.

Are there incentives for lowering power consumption?

No, not yet. Some utilities use smart meters to offer time-of-use rates to incent customers to reduce their consumption during peak hours. In December 2023, BC Hydro was approved to offer time-of-day pricing to its customers using smart meters. Nelson Hydro does not have smart meters installed in its service territory but is considering a project within the next five years. Thank you for your cooperation — reducing peak demand contributes to lowering electricity bills for everyone.

Does Nelson Hydro sell power to other regions or utilities?

Outside of a small window during freshet (May/June/July) where energy is occasionally sold to BC Hydro upon request through the Water Licensing Agreement, Nelson Hydro uses all the the power that it produces. Additional power to meet customer demand is purchased through our wholesale contract with FortisBC.