Shattering summer record, British Columbians rely on AC more than ever: BC Hydro

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As temperatures skyrocketed during the B.C. heat wave, so did the demand for air conditioning.

According to new research by BC Hydro, the province saw a record-breaking demand for electricity amid the unprecedented heat that hit the region in late June.

The increased demand for AC drove the summer peak hour demand to all-time highs, which is the time of day residents use the most power.

BC Hydro says records were broken on three consecutive days, with the highest ever summer peak hourly demand recorded on June 28.

Demand reached 8,568 megawatts, shattering the record that was set before the heat wave by more than 600 megawatts, which is the equivalent of turning on 600,000 portable air conditioners.

BC Hydro says air conditioning in the province has been on the rise over the past decade, increasing by about 50 per cent from a quarter of British Columbians using it at home to nearly 40 per cent.

The study found more than 20 per cent of British Columbians purchased or upgraded their air conditioning units this summer due to the sweltering heat, bringing the total number with air conditioning even higher.

But the Crown utility expects that number would have been much higher, had it not been for a shortage of air conditioning units across the region.

It adds that air conditioning use appears to have grown almost as much in one summer as it did in the previous 10 years combined.

The study also found that the majority of British Columbians now consider air conditioning a necessity, not a luxury.

BC Hydro is offering tips to those considering purchasing an air conditioning unit or upgrading their systems before next summer:

  • Buy a heat pump: According to the Crown utility, 66 per cent of homes with air conditioning units use them and some households could save more in the long run by adopting heat pumps to meet their future air conditioning needs. BC Hydro also offers rebates of up to $2,000 for installing a heat pump, in partnership with CleanBC;
  • Be more energy efficient: Purchasing an Energy Star air conditioner can help save energy as they typically use 30 to 40 per cent less power than standard AC units.

The online survey was conducted by Majid Khoury of 800 British Columbians from Aug. 19 to 22, 2021.