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Province used record amounts of energy due to cold snap, says B.C. Hydro

B.C. Hydro says Friday night broke the record for peak hourly energy consumption in the province. (Ethan Cairns/Canadian Press - image credit)
B.C. Hydro says Friday night broke the record for peak hourly energy consumption in the province. (Ethan Cairns/Canadian Press - image credit)

British Columbians set a new record for energy usage Friday night, with customers using 11,300 megawatts of energy amid an Arctic outflow that saw temperatures drop to the –40 C range in some parts of the province.

Power utility B.C. Hydro said in a release the previous record for hourly energy demand was 10,977 megawatts set in December 2022. Saturday night's peak hourly load was also above the previous record, the authority added, at almost 11,000 megawatts.

"B.C. is fortunate to have an integrated, provincial hydroelectric system that allows B.C. Hydro to ramp up quickly when generation is needed and scale back when it is not," said Chris O'Riley, CEO of the power utility, in a statement.

The statement said B.C. did not need to import electricity and had enough to support parts of Alberta, providing about 200 megawatts to the neighbouring province.

A sign displaying the temperature is pictured during during a period of cold weather in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday, January 12, 2024.
A sign displaying the temperature is pictured during during a period of cold weather in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday, January 12, 2024.

The prolonged cold snap has led to high energy demand, according to the provincial energy utility. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The Alberta Electric Systems Operator issued grid alerts Friday and Saturday, and Utilities Minister Nathan Neudorf warned there was high risk of rotating outages Saturday night, which did not occur.

Though drought has presented some challenges for B.C. Hydro this year, given low water levels in power-generating reservoirs, the utility says it will continue to generate power using various strategies, including potentially importing and exporting power with other utilities in western North America.

"Extreme weather events like drought and cold snaps are putting people and communities at increased risk," said Josie Osborne, the provincial energy minister, who credited B.C.'s power utility for its resiliency amid the high demand.

Cold weather warnings lifted in B.C. 

Cold weather warnings across much of British Columbia lifted Sunday ahead of a warming trend in the forecast. Environment Canada lifted Arctic outflow and extreme cold warnings for the Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Howe Sound, Prince George, Cariboo, South Thompson and North Coast areas.

B.C. Hydro says energy usage will remain higher than average for the next couple of days as temperatures remain cold, but is not expected to be at record-breaking levels.