Electricity demand surges during B.C. heat wave

Electricity demand surges

The recent heat wave has blown power consumption records for this time of year.

BC Hydro set a new record on Monday night for the highest May peak hourly demand. Preliminary analysis found consumption reached nearly 7,600 megawatts as people cranked up the air conditioning and turned on fans to try to cope with temperatures that soared above 30 C.

BC Hydro supplies electricity to Kamloops, the Greater Westside and Lake Country to the north.

FortisBC, which supplies electricity to Kelowna and communities in the South Okanagan, Similkameen and Boundary, also reached a new May highpoint. A new record of 544 MW was set on Monday. The previous high for May was 516 MW.

BC Hydro does not expect its latest record to fall in the coming days, as temperatures cool slightly. While it predicts demand will remain higher-than-average this week, it says it can meet the additional demand.

“While the demand on the electricity system will be higher, it will only be about two-thirds of what is typically recorded on the coldest days of the year,” said the power company.

BC Hydro suggests those looking for ways to keep cool and save money during a heat wave consider the following steps:

  • Closing the drapes and blinds: Shading windows can block out up to 65 per cent of the heat.
  • Shutting doors and windows: If the temperature outside is warmer than inside, keep doors and windows closed to keep the cooler air in and the warm air out.
  • Using a fan: Running a fan nine hours a day over the summer costs just $7.
  • Cooling with a heat pump: Because BC Hydro generates 98 per cent of its electricity from clean, renewable resources that are mostly powered by water, using a heat pump to cool in the summer and heat in the winter is more environmentally friendly than a system powered by gas. It is also more energy efficient than using multiple portable AC units. BC Hydro offers up to $3,000 in rebates for switching from a fossil fuel-based system, which can be combined with provincial and federal rebates for a total savings of up to $11,000 on cost and installation with some municipalities adding additional rebates on top of that.
  • Going ductless: If a central heat pump system is not an option for your home, ductless heat pump units are a great option while offering the same benefits of a central system.
  • Choosing ENERGY STAR: If you are buying an air conditioner, opt for a window AC unit as opposed to portable units, as they are twice as energy efficient – especially if they are ENERGY STAR certified. ENERGY STAR models use about 30 to 40 per cent less power than standard units.

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