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2021’s extreme weather smashes BC Hydro electricity use records

BC Hydro experienced 19 of its top 25 all-time summer daily peak records in 2021.
lytton fire
As a fire roared through Lytton, destroying up to 90 per cent of the village in June, BC Hydro was experiencing record-breaking power demands for air conditioners to stave off extreme heat.

The extreme weather and the devastation that followed in B.C. in 2021 led to record-smashing electricity use.

“With the heat dome in the summer and the sustained cold temperatures in December, we saw more record-breaking hours on more days last year than in any other single year,” utility spokesperson Kyle Donaldson said.

In newly released data from BC Hydro, the utility provider notes that peak power usage switched from winter months to the summer in 2021 as several communities broke temperature records. At the same time, BC Hydro experienced 19 of its top 25 all-time summer daily peak records.

“This includes breaking its all-time summer peak hourly demand record,” the report said.

As Lytton experienced a temperature of 49.6°C – the highest temperature ever recorded anywhere in Canada – and then burned to the ground in late June, there was a record-breaking demand for electricity as more and more people turned on their air conditioners.

Load rates at the time of the Lytton fire were the equivalent of 600,000 portable air conditions being switched on.

This winter with its high snowfall and plummeting mercury has also resulted in the highest and longest-sustained load levels BC Hydro's system has ever experienced.

“Overall, this winter so far, BC Hydro has experienced 11 of its top 25 all-time daily peak records,” the report said. “BC Hydro has broken the peak record five times in the past five years."

What’s more, the pandemic appears to be playing a role as well. 

The 2021 peak load built up more gradually throughout the day, suggesting more people were likely working from home or were home for the holidays.

BC Hydro said it's preparing to meet the electricity demand challenges posed by climate change and the extreme weather brought with that through asset management and emergency management processes.

The report cites the utility’s 20-year Integrated Resource Plan unveiled in December as a map for how BC Hydro will meet future demand for electricity through a combination of energy conservation and the development of generation resources.