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Calgary sets energy use record as air conditioner sales skyrocket


Calgary blew past its previous energy usage record Monday thanks largely to an increased use of air conditioners in the current heatwave.

The previous record of 1692 megawatts was set  August 10, 2018.  It was eclipsed at about 2 p.m. Monday when the power drain in Calgary hit 1719 Mw and kept climbing.

By 6 p.m. it had hit 1737.

According to Statscan, in 2017 over 60 per cent of Canadian households had air conditioning.

By contrast, in 2013 under 20 percent of Calgary homes had air conditioning. By 2017, that was up to 24 per cent and if summer energy use is any indication, it continues accelerating.

“Some time back we transitioned from a winter-peaking to a summer-peaking utility," said Andre van Dijk VP of strategic planning for Enmax. “That's certainly the case that we've seen a lot more air conditioners, and they and they do consume quite a bit of energy: 3.5 kilowatts is typically the size of an air conditioning unit. So you can think of those devices that take a lot of electricity, a hot tub is in that class.”

Van Dijk said Enmax’s distribution system can handle the increased load but warned that increased air conditioning use, along with a transition to electric vehicle charging are both contributing to a need for system upgrades, especially at a neighbourhood level.

“We're going to need to invest in bigger transformers. And at the local level, those distribution transformers is what we call them," said Van Dijk. “If you have somebody who's got the hot tub, he's got the air conditioning, he's got the you know, the electric vehicle charger and the neighbor comes in and she has the same, then it can become a problem for us.”

Van Dijk says those problems are still a few years off but says they need to be addressed in advance.


Meanwhile the heatwave continues to drive Calgarians to purchase air conditioning.

Andrew Ridley of Calgary Air Heating & Cooling Ltd said he and other installers are being run ragged keeping up with demand.

“Just swamped. We've had over 150 calls in the last week, and that's not including emails. We’ve been sending out more than 30 quotes a day. It's been super busy," said Ridley while installing a central air conditioning unit in a home in the northwest community of Panorama. “A lot of people think that you're only going to use it for 30 days out of the year, but in reality, you can use it for a solid four months, and the nice thing with these is you just set it at 20 degrees and it'll maintain that temperature”

Andrew Ridley installs air conditioning unit in Calgary, June 28, 2021

Homeowner Muhammad Qasar says installing the air conditioning was an easy decision.

“I have seen once the heat gets into your house is not going to go out actually," Qasar said. "Even now (10 a.m. Monday) the temperature outside is like 20, probably at 23 degrees. But inside it's like 30 and even over 30."

“It's like an oven in the house. It’s actually roasting.”

Portable air conditioners are also selling fast in the summer heat. Bow West Appliances had hundreds in stock just last week after making a huge purchase in May.

“I had really good super deal on them at the end of May so I put in a really large order, and I was  ‘thinking they're going to sit  here,"  said Bow West Owner Patricia Warner.

“And then of course, with the weather forecast this week, on Friday and Saturday, we sold out completely. Record sales in 20 years.We had people coming asking for six units and we had to kind of put a limit on them, to two per customer. It was different. (I've never seen) nothing like this ever before.” Top Stories

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