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VANCOUVER — British Columbia endured sizzling summer heat and bone-numbing cold to end 2021 and the province’s electrical utility says the result was a record-breaking, year-round demand for power, launching a trend that’s not expected to end soon.

In a report examining electricity demand during last year’s unprecedented weather events, BC Hydro says the province’s hot and cold extremes translated into more hours of peak power use on more days in 2021 than in any other year.

Hydro says 19 of its top 25 summer daily peak records were set during B.C.’s heat dome in June, including a new summer high of 8,568 megawatts on June 28, as increased use of air conditioners helped smash the old mark by 600 megawatts

The Crown utility says that highlights a key shift as air conditioner use has climbed 50 per cent in B.C. over the last decade, adding summertime peak loads to records more traditionally set in winter, such as the all-time peak of 10,787 megawatts used in a single hour on Dec. 27 during the recent Arctic deep freeze.

The Hydro report foresees little change in future wintertime demand for electricity and warns climate models suggest B.C.’s hot summers will continue indefinitely, creating year-round electricity demands, rather than a winter surge.

A recent poll done for BC Hydro found 76 per cent of residents worry about reliable power supplies during extreme weather events but the utility’s report says Hydro has a surplus of electricity and expects to have more than it needs until about 2030.

“BC Hydro’s 20-year integrated resource plan maps out how it will meet future demand for electricity through a combination of energy conservation and the development of additional generation resources,” the report says.

Although Hydro says it has more than enough power to keep up with changes in demand, it calls on B.C. residents to continue to help tame climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions:

“Installing an electric heat pump in place of a gas furnace will significantly reduce home heating emissions, and provides the added benefit of not only heating, but cooling in the hotter months,” says the report.

The utility also urges drivers to switch to electric vehicles, saying that will lower a family’s carbon footprint and save thousands in fuel costs at the same time.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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