Home Health Heat Stress $10 million to BC Hydro for air conditioner installations

$10 million to BC Hydro for air conditioner installations

Seniors, low-income and others may apply through BC Hydro for the free air conditioners.

adrian dix, chirs oriley, bc hydro
BC Health Minister Adrian Dix was joined by BC Hydro CEO Chris O'Riley to announce an air conditioner program for heat-vulnerable people in BC, June 27, 2023 in Vancouver. [web]
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Tuesday June 27, 2023 | VICTORIA, BC [Updated 7:50 pm]

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends


In response to what was learned about the impacts of the 2021 heath dome — particularly surrounding the deaths of 619 people as a result of extreme heat — BC Hydro will be accepting applications for air conditioner units to be provided and installed at no charge.

Today Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is making $10 million available to support the program over the next three years.

fan, water
During a heat wave, stay cool and drink plenty of water.

About 8,000 air conditioner units will be supplied by the program. The total installations may reach 10,000 when including other programs that BC Hydro has undertaken, said Dix.

Many of the recipients will be in rentals or condo units. This will often involve dealing with the landlord or building owner or strata council, to see that the air conditioners — seen as a requirement for health and safety — can be installed. BC Hydro seems to be ready to roll up its sleeves and undertake this work.

And this… we’re in a new world where the power utility can get involved in your medical profile. Applications for the air conditioner units may require proof medical assessment that a person is vulnerable to extreme heat. This could have privacy implications.

Mostly seniors:

adrian dix, health minister
Health Minister Adrian Dix says that seniors and those with chronic health issues will be prioritized for family doctors starting July 1, 2023. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

The BC Coroner identified that most of the people who died from extreme heat during the June 25 to July 1 heat dome in 2021 were elderly (90% were over age 60), and/or had underlying health conditions (including where mobility or cognition would be affected), and/or were in low income situations (with no air conditioning present or available).

Heat domes and extreme heat:

Weather specialists warned the BC government and health authorities about the pending heat dome ahead of June 25, 2021. Other than a relatively prompt response by Island Health on June 25 to warn the public through local media, a heat response plan was developed by the provincial government only months after the tragedy of summer 2021.

Today Dix said that extreme heat events can be expected in the years ahead, not as the exception but more so as an expected phenomenon due to climate change.

BC Hydro to work on each case:

BC Hydro is evidently prepared to work through each applicant’s situation including if having to deal with landlords or strata councils.

BC Hydro CEO Chris O’Riley was also at today’s government announcement. He said there is “lots of room to accommodate these new uses of power” in summer when more air conditioning units are being used and being run for longer periods of time.

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As announced on June 16, BC Hydro is bringing more power generation into their grid over the coming years, in response to increasing overall demand in a province with a growing population and a greater range of demands for electrical use (including electronic devices, electric vehicle charging, and now air conditioning). What was thought to be a 2030 target may well show signs of needing increased generating supply by 2028, said O’Riley last month.

chris oriley, bc hydro
Chris O’Riley, President and CEO, BC Hydro [BC Hydro]

Minister Dix purported that many people who can afford air conditioning units have made that purchase and installation since the heat dome experience of 2021.

Connecting with family doctor:

For seniors who need family doctors to perhaps help with the proof of medical need in this situation, Dix also reaffirmed the pending activation of the Health Connect Registry in matching up people with family doctors. A few months ago he said that would be coming July 1.

Back on May 11 Dix said that attention to air cooling has been dealt with in long-term care and assisted living facilities as well as making sure that protocols for on-site cool air are being adhered to in home care scenarios.

As for those living independently in the community, Dix says more information is coming in a report that will be available by June 30, 2023.

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===== RELATED:

BC Hydro aiming for 2030 energy demand target (June 16, 2023)

Heat realities: air conditioners for isolated seniors (May 11, 2023)

BC launches preparedness plan for heat events (June 8, 2022)

BC Coroners report on extreme heat deaths dedicated to the victims (June 7, 2022)

Meteorologist tells UBCM: heat dome was no surprise (September 15, 2021)