Last night the big illuminated sign on the top of Hydro Quebec’s headquarters was turned off, as the public utility asked Quebeckers to cut back on power use because of near-record demands. We’re having the coldest weather seen in several years, and Hydro expects power use this morning is expected to reach about 38,000 MW by Friday morning. In a press release calling for users to turn down temperatures and turn off lights, Hydro said that “all-time electricity demand peak of 36,268 MW registered on January 15, 2004 was nearly equaled Thursday morning, as consumption hit the 36,250 MW mark.” People were asked not to use washers, dryers or dishwashers between 6 and 9 a.m. and 5 and 8 p.m.
Of course that assumes that you’re using electricity to heat your house and water and to dry your clothes. We heat with oil and cook with gas, but I don’t know where that puts us on the environmental virtue ratings, since those fuels also have their problems. Just to put this in context, it's important to note that electricity use in winter here is nearly double that in summer even though air conditioning is becoming increasingly commmon. It's harder to heat water and buildings from -20 to +20 than it is to cool them from +30 to +20, it appears.
The only thing that’s good, is the news I had from a friend in Calgary yesterday who said that the cold spell has broken there: after several weeks of the frigid temperatures we have now, the mercury went up to plus 5 C there. Can’t wait for the warm front to move east. Until then I think I'll sit by a window and read--not much electricity wasted doing that.