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AC/BC: air conditioning use leads to higher summer electricity demand in B.C.

Cooling options needn't send your electricity usage through the roof.

BC Hydro data shows a rise in air conditioning (AC) use in B.C. homes has significantly increased summer electricity demand and it is forecasting this upward trend will continue due to climate change.

The new report titled, “AC dependency: summer demand for electricity increasing with AC use,” shows since 2017 BC Hydro residential electricity demand has increased by 12 per cent from June through August, largely because of a rise in AC use in residential homes.

“Climate change has made access to AC increasingly vital as summer temperatures increase,” said Susie Rieder, BC Hydro spokesperson. “BC Hydro data shows AC use increased by about 50 per cent over the past decade from a quarter of British Columbians using it at home to nearly 40 per cent, but we still see far greater demand for electricity in the winter months.”

With record-breaking heat last summer, BC Hydro experienced 19 of its top 25 all-time summer daily peak records, including breaking its all-time summer peak hourly demand record - the time of day British Columbians use the most power - when demand reached 8,568 megawatts. Compared to summer 2017, summer 2021’s peak hourly demand increased by about 13 per cent.

This summer, temperatures are forecast to heat up from July to September, and demand for electricity is expected to climb higher during that time mostly due to AC use. In a recent survey, conducted on behalf of BC Hydro, 62 per cent of British Columbians with AC said their AC use has increased at home in recent years, and 63 per cent used their AC for more than five hours per day last summer. This year, one quarter of British Columbians have purchased or upgraded an AC, with 72 per cent of those citing increasingly severe and frequent summer heat as their main motivation.

Increasing summer demand is something BC Hydro has been planning for. BC Hydro has a surplus of electricity and its 20-year Integrated Resource Plan maps out how it will meet future demand for electricity through a combination of energy conservation, system upgrades, and the development of additional generation resources. This summer, BC Hydro recommends British Columbians take the following measures to keep cool, save energy, and stay safe:

  • Cooling with a heat pump: Because BC Hydro generates 98 per cent of its electricity from clean, renewable resources that are mostly powered by water, using a heat pump to cool in the summer and heat in the winter is more environmentally friendly than a system powered by gas. It is also more energy efficient than using multiple portable AC units.  BC Hydro offers up to $3,000 in rebates for switching from a fossil fuel based system, which can be combined with provincial and federal rebates for a total savings of up to $11,000 on cost and installation with some municipalities adding additional rebates on top of that.
  • Going ductless:  If a central heat pump system is not an option for your home, ductless units are a great option while offering the same benefits of a central system.
  • Buying smart: If you are buying an air conditioner, opt for a window AC unit as opposed to portable units, as they are twice as energy efficient - especially if they are ENERGY STAR certified - ENERGY STAR models use about 30 to 40 per cent less power than standard units.
  • Optimizing temperature: Cool homes to 25 degrees Celsius in the summer months when occupied, and the air conditioning should be turned off when unoccupied.
  • Closing the drapes and blinds: Shading windows can block out up to 65 per cent of the heat.
  • Using a fan: Running a fan nine hours a day over the summer costs just $7.
  • Tracking usage: Use MyHydro to track electricity usage and see how using air conditioning can impact costs.

For more information visit bchydro.com.