AC/BC: The use of air conditioning leads to an increase in electricity demand in the summer in British Columbia

BC Hydro data shows that an increase in the use of air conditioning (AC) in British Columbia homes has significantly increased electricity demand in the summer and predicts that this upward trend will continue due of climate change.

The new report, “Alternating Current Dependency: Summer Electricity Demand Rises with AC Use,” shows that since 2017, BC Hydro’s residential electricity demand has increased by 12% from June to August, mainly due to an increase in the use of alternating current in residences.

“Climate change has made access to alternating current increasingly vital as summer temperatures rise,” said BC Hydro spokeswoman Susie Rieder. “BC Hydro data shows that AC use has increased by about 50% over the past decade, from a quarter of British Columbians using it at home to nearly 40%, but we always see a much higher electricity demand during the winter months.”

With record heat last summer, BC Hydro recorded 19 of its top 25 daily peak summer records, including its summer peak hourly demand record – the time of day when British Columbians use the more electricity – when demand is reached 8,568 megawatts. Compared to summer 2017, peak hourly demand in summer 2021 increased by around 13%.

This summer, temperatures are expected to rise from July to September and electricity demand is expected to increase during this period, mainly due to the use of alternating current. In a recent survey, conducted on behalf of BC Hydro, 62% of British Columbians with AC said their AC use has increased at home in recent years, and 63% have used their AC for more than five hours a day last summer. This year, a quarter of British Columbians have bought or upgraded an air conditioner, with 72% citing the increasingly intense and frequent summer heat as their main motivation.

BC Hydro expected to increase summer demand. BC Hydro has excess electricity and its 20-year Integrated Resource Plan outlines how it will meet future electricity demand through a combination of energy conservation, system upgrades and resource development additional production. This summer, BC Hydro recommends that British Columbians take the following steps to stay cool, save energy and stay safe:

  • Cooling with a heat pump: Because BC Hydro generates 98% of its electricity from clean, renewable resources that are primarily water-powered, using a heat pump for summer cooling and winter heating is greener than a gas-powered system. It is also more energy efficient than using multiple portable AC units. BC Hydro is offering up to $3,000 in rebates to switch from a fossil fuel system, which can be combined with provincial and federal rebates for a total savings of up to $11,000 on cost and installation, some municipalities add additional discounts on top.

  • Go ductless: If a central heat pump system isn’t an option for your home, ductless units are a great option while still providing the same benefits as a central system.

  • Buy smart: If you’re buying an air conditioner, go for a window air conditioner over portable units because they’re twice as energy efficient – especially if they’re ENERGY STAR certified – ENERGY STAR models use around 30-40% less power than standard units.

  • Temperature Optimization: Cool homes to 25 degrees Celsius during summer months when occupied, and air conditioning should be turned off when unoccupied.

  • Closing curtains and blinds: Shaded windows can block up to 65% of heat.

  • Running a Fan: Running a fan nine hours a day in the summer costs only $7.

  • Usage Tracking: Use MyHydro to track electricity usage and see how air conditioning usage can impact costs.

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