COVID-19 demand impact in Australia 

4 min

As the world continues to respond to COVID-19 life in Australia has also experienced a paradigm shift from what was considered ‘normality’ mere weeks ago. Working and learning from home whilst businesses and public services continue to be majorly disrupted, put into hibernation or, in some cases, closed altogether has become the new status quo. Unsurprisingly this dramatic change to our personal and professional routines has had an impact on electricity demand.

There are many factors that drastically affect the demand on any given day so quantifying the actual impact of the pandemic on the grid’s electricity demand is not straight-forward. Unbundling the impact of COVID-19 from factors such as temperature, humidity, cloud cover, day of the week, time of the year, and the amount of rooftop-PV installed can be challenging.

In order to meet these challenges AEMO’s Operational Forecasting team has been working with global forecasting experts, and other grid operators in Europe and the US, to develop state of the art models to help us isolate COVID-19 impacts from the normal variation in demand patterns.

AEMO’s approach has been to create a forecasting model that has been ‘frozen in time’ before the advent of the pandemic.  We feed actual weather conditions and current level of installed rooftop-PV into this model and it provides us with an estimate of what demand would have been before COVID-19.  We can then compare actual demands with this forecast, knowing that all the other variables have been factored in by the model – any difference between actual and the ‘frozen forecast’ is due to COVID-19 impacts.

COVID-19 Impacts on Load Shape

AEMO has observed that morning peaks in all states are now slightly later than usual and afternoon peaks slightly earlier.  This would seem to be consistent with changes in commuting patterns with people working from home in large numbers.

NSW operational demand 7th April 2020 versus pre-Covid-19 ‘frozen in time’ model. Demand reductions observed across whole day, with a later morning peak and earlier afternoon peak compared to typical shape for this time of year
Graph displaying demand impact in New South Wales during April 2020

COVID-19 Impacts on Demand

AEMO has observed COVID-19 demand reductions predominantly in Queensland (QLD) and New South Wales (NSW). Impacts have been gradually expanding over time as restrictions have tightened.  From the 1st of April to 16th of April we saw:

  • Weekday reductions in NSW demand in the order of 8% to 10% (approx. 600MW) in the morning times and 6% to 8% (approx. 500MW) on the afternoon times. The evening peak is the least impacted time of day, with average reductions of 3% to 5% (approx. 200MW to 400MW)
  • Weekend impacts in NSW appear to be lower, with consistent reductions of 5% to 6% (approx. 300MW) across most of the day except for the evening peak which appears to only be marginally impacted by approximately 1%
  • Weekday reductions in demand across the day in QLD are in the order of 6% (approx. 300MW) with the greatest impact being seen in the mornings.  As with NSW, the impacts are less on weekends

There has also been evidence to suggest that some impact is becoming apparent in Victoria and South Australia too, however, it is too early to be conclusive at this stage.  We will continue to be monitor both states closely.

To date, Tasmania is not demonstrating any demand reductions outside of natural variance and weather-related demand responsiveness. That, however, does not mean that there are no impacts in these states – just that any changes are not apparent at a grid scale.

Easter Weekend

Demand in holiday periods was already at very low levels due to the routine closures on public holidays and weekends in consumer destinations such as shopping centres. In line with this seasonality, reductions in demand over the 2020 Easter weekend, even in Queensland and New South Wales, were minimal and demands were consistent with previous years.


Australia, overall, has seen only moderate reductions in demand over the past few weeks, with the impacts increasing incrementally over time. Much greater reductions have taken place internationally, particularly in countries like Spain, France and Italy where tighter COVID-19  restrictions and full-lockdowns have been implemented. Demand reductions in the order of 20 to 30% have been observed in those countries.

AEMO expects that reductions in demand may continue to increase incrementally over time at current levels of restrictions.  We anticipate that Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania may also begin to exhibit changes in demand. However, as some states and territories take steps to ease restrictions this could impact these changes.

In addition, we expect that as cooler weather prevails, we might see an increase in load volatility, reflective of a greater proportion of residential (weather sensitive) load on the grid.

We will continue to keep you updated on all the latest pandemic related responses and activity domestically and internationally so stay tuned for more on this evolving situation.

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