Electricity usage record shattered amid cold snap, says BC Hydro

Electricity usage record shattered amid cold snap, says BC Hydro
Photo credit: Nicholas Pescod

Not only did the recent cold snap break a range of daily weather records on Vancouver Island and across British Columbia, it also prompted people to rely on electricity more than ever before, according to BC Hydro.

The hydro company says extremely cold temperatures province-wide drove peak hourly electricity demand — the hour customers use the most electricity — to a record-high level on Friday night when it reached 11,300 megawatts.

“So demand, obviously, with everybody home, everything on, we were able to meet that load,” Ted Olynyk, BC Hydro’s community relations manager, told CHEK News.

The previous record, which was set in December 2022, was 10,997 megawatts, the company notes in a release Sunday. It says Friday night’s consumption was more than 30 per cent higher than the previous Friday night before the cold snap began.


B.C.’s Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, Josie Osborne, says extreme weather events like cold snaps put people and communities at increased risk. But thanks to BC Hydro, she adds that “we are able to meet the needs of British Columbians while also delivering clean, reliable hydro-electricity to our neighbours in Alberta when they needed it most.”

The hydro company says despite the record demand, the province “did not require imports from the market” and also had enough generating capacity to provide support to neighbours, including those in the Pacific Northwest and Alberta.

“This includes about 200 megawatts exported to Alberta following an electrical grid alert from the Alberta Electrical Systems Operator (AESO),” said BC Hydro.

In that province, high demand for electricity due to the extreme cold prompted its electric systems operator, AESO, to issue a grid alert on Saturday. The province is also asking Albertans to conserve energy during peak demand periods.

“B.C. is fortunate to have an integrated, provincial hydroelectric system that allows BC Hydro to ramp up quickly when generation is needed and scale back when it is not,” said Chris O’Riley, BC Hydro’s president and CEO.

“Our teams carefully plan and prepare for cold weather events like this to ensure our generating facilities are running at full capacity so we can deliver clean electricity to our customers when they need it the most.”

READ ALSO: Why fall’s arrival hasn’t shaken off the impact of B.C.’s ‘exceptional’ drought

However, the recent drought, which BC Hydro calls “historic,” has impacted its largest reservoirs. These are the water sources for the power it generates, and the company says it has been planning for over a year to manage these conditions.

It adds that while the cold snap is expected to last a few more days, “demand will remain higher-than-average, but it will not be at record-breaking levels.”

Frigid temperatures continue to grip B.C., with extreme cold and Arctic outflow alerts in effect for many parts of the province.

Environment Canada says arctic air will continue to generate wind chill temperatures of between –40 and –50°C in some parts of B.C., including Peace River and Prince George. Meanwhile, on Vancouver Island, Greater Victoria will see overnight lows of -4°C on Sunday, while up-Island communities like Campbell River will see lows of -6°C.

-with files from The Canadian Press

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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