British Columbia set a record Saturday night for peak summer electricity use, according to the province’s energy regulator.
“Preliminary analysis found consumption reached 7,972 megawatts,” BC Hydro said in a press release, adding the utility “typically sees the highest peak in hourly demand on weekdays when customers follow a more “routine” schedule, which makes Saturday’s record even more unique.”
The increased electricity use comes as people across Western Canada crank up air-conditioning units and fans amid a record-breaking heat wave engulfing most of the country’s Pacific coast.
On June 27, sweltering temperatures in the town of Lytton, B.C., hit a historic 46.6 C unofficially — a new all-time hottest temperature in Canada. The previous documented high was recorded in Saskatchewan in July 1937. Meanwhile, kids in the Lower Mainland were kept home from school Monday as temperatures climbed to the low 40s in Vancouver and surrounding cities.
Meteorologists say extreme heat waves are consistent with the effects of climate change, citing shifting baselines and forecast models of rising global temperatures.
The government of Canada expects the number of “extremely hot days” to increase by more than 50 per cent in some parts of the country over the next 30 years.
Milind Kandlikar, a resources, environment and sustainability professor at the University of British Columbia, says utilities providers will have to adjust to changing weather patterns.
“If you have such extreme weather conditions, then our system has to be designed to be able to account for such really high peaks, which you probably did not need to have in the past,” Kandlikar says.
In B.C., where hydropower makes up 88 per cent of electricity, the consequences of extreme weather events on energy grids are long-term, says Kandlikar.
“Our current system is tuned to a certain climate. You get a certain amount of snowfall during the year, and then we get some kind of runoff, and our whole current system is based on certain assumptions about the kinds of stream flow we have,” says Kandlikar.
The Canadian government expects the number of “extremely hot days” to increase by more than 50 per cent in some parts of the country over the next 30 years. #ClimateChange #ClimateCrisis #ExtremeWeather
“If that changes, it's also going to affect how electricity is generated. So the consequences are a bit more long-term.”
BC Hydro says it expects usage to increase as the heat wave continues throughout the week, and is taking steps to ensure customers have reliable energy, including cancelling the majority of planned outages and suspending disconnections for non-payment.
“This is such a black swan event,” says Kandlikar. “This is so out of the norm that I think a lot of the utilities (providers) are going to wake up and start thinking, 'Well, what if this becomes more common?'
“You don't want to have a Texas-style situation that happened a few months ago where the system could not cope with the demand.”