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BC Hydro has enough power as climate change ramps up cooling demand: CEO

Chris O’Riley says BC Hydro still able to handle electricity demand despite record-breaking power usage

BC Hydro’s CEO says the Crown corporation is “well within” its capability to provide the necessary power to cool residents as the province heats up.

BC Hydro CEO Chris O’Riley said he knows British Columbians are struggling with extreme heat, and there are often limited options available to them when it comes to cooling.

“As our once-milder spring and summers become warmer, air conditioning is no longer being considered a luxury among British Columbians.”

He added that after the last two summers, British Columbians are “looking to air conditioning to keep them cool, but cost is a barrier for many.”

READ ALSO: Electricity demand in B.C. expected to increase by 15% by 2030

His comments came as the province announced $10 million for up to 8,000 new air conditioning units for B.C. vulnerable.

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the funding Tuesday (June 27) in Vancouver, two years after the fatal heat dome that killed 619 people between June 25 and July 1, 2021. At the heat dome’s peak, temperatures reached more than 40 C outside, while many experienced hotter temperatures indoors.

A 2022 report from the BC Coroners Service noted that 98 per cent of deaths were indoors, heat-related deaths were higher among people with specific chronic diseases, 67 per cent of those who died were aged 70 or older and most deaths occurred in homes without adequate cooling systems, such as air conditioning.

READ MORE: B.C. cranks up $10 million for 8,000 air conditioners for vulnerable citizens

The $10 million allows BC Hydro to expand its Energy Conservation Assistance program to include free, publicly funded portable air conditioners for people who are medically vulnerable and have low incomes. The announcement didn’t give specific criteria for who could be eligible.

O’Riley noted that in May, during an unseasonable heatwave, BC Hydro broke a peak hourly demand record.

While that electricity demand is increasing in spring and summer months, he said the Crown corporation has “lots of room to accommodate these new uses of power in the summer periods.” The demand for power is also “much higher” in the winter heating months “by quite a large margin.”

BC Hydro is also on the hunt for new, renewable power sources, anticipating that demand for electricity will increase by 15 per cent between now and 2030 because of population growth and consumers adopting new technologies like electric vehicles and heat pumps.

Asked if BC Hydro has taken this summer increase into account, O’Riley said it’s “well within our capability” and are already included in plans to acquire more electricity.

“We’re in the midst of an energy transition in the world, and certainly here in British Columbia, so given the demand for electrification to replace the use of fossil fuels, we’re forecasting a significant growth in load in the province, in demand for electricity.”

– With files from Wolf Depner

READ MORE: Greens call for cooling units in homes of the most vulnerable

READ MORE: British Columbians break record for electricity use in May heat


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Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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