Cold snap causes record surge in power demand

On Jan. 3, between 5 and 6 pm, BC Hydro set a new record for power consumption when demand for electricity peaked at 10,126 megawatts.

This new record breaks the previous record that was in place for more than a decade. The old record was set on November 29, 2006, when consumption reached 10,113 megawatts between 5 and 6 pm.

The provincial utility records the highest demand for electricity in the winter months between 4 and 8 pm on weekday evenings. This is when the majority of British Columbians come home, turn up the heat, switch on the lights, do laundry and make dinner.

Demand for electricity is expected to remain high as the cold snap continues. Hydro is preparing for peak loads between 9,800 and 10,200 megawatts this week.

Residential energy consumption can increase, on average, by 88 per cent in the colder, darker months. BC Hydro is reminding customers there are simple ways to save power during the winter:

  • Manage your thermostat. Lowering it by two degrees to save 5 per cent;
  • Lowering it by five degree to save 10 per cent;
  • Unplug your second fridge and save up to $90 per year;
  • Unplug unused electronics and save $50 per year;
  • Wash laundry in cold water and save $27 per year; and
  • Turn off unnecessary lights and save $12 per year.

The province’s large hydroelectric system provides firm, flexible power that allows BC Hydro to respond to spikes in electrical demand caused by cold weather. This means the power will be there on the coldest, darkest days of the year — without brownouts or without having to import expensive power from other jurisdictions.

BC Hydro is investing, on average, $2 billion a year, to upgrade aging assets and build new infrastructure so that British Columbia’s electricity system remains affordable, reliable and clean for the long-term. This includes building the Site C Clean Energy Project and installing a new unit at the Revelstoke generating station – two projects it says are critical to providing the capacity to meet power demand.