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B.C.’s cold snap shatters electricity use record — again

BC Hydro usage records have been smashed twice this week by temperatures that are expected to rise for Christmas.
Frozen beard in a blowing snow storm (Getty Images)
Freezing temperatures are expected to warm across B.C. by the weekend

BC Hydro has once again shattered its record for peak hourly electricity demand as Arctic outlflow winds bring frigid temperatures throughout the province.

The record demand in peak hour electricity— which measures the hour customers use the most electricity — was broken Wednesday evening, just two day after British Columbians had set a previous record.

“The extreme cold has British Columbians turning up the heat and as a result we are experiencing record-breaking electricity demand,” BC Hydro spokesperson Susie Rieder said

“Last night’s consumption was more than 15 per cent higher than the peak hourly demand recorded last Wednesday before the cold snap began."

Between 5 and 6 p.m. Monday, preliminary analysis found consumption reached over 10,800 megawatts — the highest ever recorded. That figure rose to 10,900 megawatts for the same hours Dec. 22. Both figures beat a record set on Dec. 27, 2021, when consumption reached 10,762 megawatts.

Rieder said BC Hydro will continue to be able to meet demand for electricity across B.C. due to its large integrated hydroelectric system.

For Vancouver and Victoria, forecasts show weather beginning to warm through the weekend.

Prince George remains in the deep freeze but could see above zero temperatures next week.

Dawson Creek remained in the deep freeze Thursday morning at  minus 41 Celsius but it could hit a balmy minus 15 C on Christmas Day

Kelowna residents experienced a temperature of minus 24 C Thursday but could climb above above freezing in the coming days. 

Prince Rupert is also below zero but should see rain on the weekend.

Residential electricity use is typically at its highest in the colder, darker winter months, which can lead to higher costs for some customers.

BC Hydro continues to remind customers there are many ways to reduce electricity use this winter.

Managing home heating should be people's biggest priority, said the utility. That can include turning down the heat when no one his home or when everyone is sleeping.

BC Hydro also suggests installing a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust temperatures at different times based on a household’s activities. BC Hydro recommends the following temperatures:

  • 21 degrees Celsius when relaxing, watching TV, and;
  • 18 degrees Celsius when doing housework or cleaning;
  • 16 degrees Celsius when sleeping or away from home.

Don't crank up the thermostat, as it will not heat up a home faster than turning it up a degree or two at a time, added the utility.

Another way to save on heating costs: keep windows covered with blinds and drapes for an extra layer of window insulation.

“Window coverings can be a quick and cost-effective way to cut heat loss and block cold drafts,” BC Hydro said.

And for people who want to take their home's efficiency a step further, draft-proofing your home can reduce heat loss.

“Use caulking and weather stripping to seal gaps and cracks around doors, windows and outlets to prevent heat from leaking out and cold air from coming in,” the company said.

Fears of winter

As recently as November, British Columbians said they felt unready or didn’t know what to expect as winter approached, according to a BC Hydro survey.

A report, “Worst-case storm-nario: British Columbians feel extreme weather becoming increasingly tough to predict and prepare for,” found almost half of British Columbians felt fatigued as the winter cold approached.

“This year, B.C. is facing potentially critical storm conditions again due to drought-weakened vegetation from unusual weather — a rainy early summer that turned into an extended dry fall,” the report said.


It’s not just winter that has seen BC Hydro consumption records smashed.

In 2021, the year of the heat dome and atmospheric rivers, BC Hydro experienced 19 of its top 25 all-time summer daily peak records, including breaking its all-time summer peak hourly demand record at 8,568 megawatts.

Compared to summer 2017, summer 2021's peak hourly demand increased by about 13 per cent.