Power Smart celebrates 25 years of reducing energy waste

Image of map showing how many homes Power Smart powers annually

When Power Smart launched in 1989, conservation wasn't a priority at BC Hydro

A letter from BC Hydro CEO Charles Reid

This year, we're celebrating the 25th anniversary of the BC Hydro Power Smart brand. It's a celebration shared by all of our customers, because it is your efforts at conservation that have contributed to our shared success.

Energy efficiency not only saves you money and improves competitiveness, it also contributes to a bright energy future for our province.

Early days: 'live better electrically'

When Power Smart launched, conservation wasn't a priority for BC Hydro or its predecessor companies. It was quite the opposite.

In the 1950s and '60s, the party line for most utilities was to encourage people to “live better electrically.” Our own Home Service department hosted demonstrations around Vancouver and Victoria to demonstrate the joys of electric cooking. It wasn't until the 1970s that we began to see a shift.

Starting in 1975, our conservation efforts focused on research and some early advice to customers on how to cut energy use and save money.

Then in 1989, with former CEO Larry Bell's support, Power Smart officially got its name and launched its first four conservation programs: Refrigerator Buy-Back, High-efficiency Motors for industrial customers, Water Heater Blanket and Fluorescent Lamps programs.

20 Power Smart programs offer significant energy savings to customers

Today, there are more than 20 Power Smart programs, which cover all sectors: residential, commercial, schools, health care, public sector, industrial and municipalities. The team behind these programs includes engineers, marketers, planners and analysts.

Business customers not only save on costs, but often improve employees' workspaces and productivity with energy efficient lighting and other energy-saving technologies. The Power Smart brand has come to symbolize efforts that contribute to a shared conservation ethic — something to be proud of.

Conservation efforts equivalent to powering 440,000 homes a year

Power Smart programs are tied directly to the gigawatt-hour savings they produce. And it's vital that those programs continue to deliver on a reduction in that demand growth so that BC Hydro's load planners — the folks tasked with predicting how fast demand will grow and how much more generating power we'll need to meet that demand — can do their jobs with reasonable accuracy.

It still surprises people that we want British Columbians to buy less of what we sell. Today, efficient use of power and changes in behaviour in B.C. save the equivalent amount of electricity to meet the annual needs of more than 440,000 homes.

Opportunities are endless

Even with this success, there's more for us to do. Our Power Smart teams continue to research new technologies, support business customers in implementing energy efficiency solutions, and consider energy wasters that aren't as obvious, such as phantom power.

Our new online tracking tools such as MyHydro will help businesses and residents realize some of these harder-to-see savings.

BC Hydro professionals are involved in working groups and industry councils across North America, seeking the best ways to help our customers harness the power of energy efficiency, recognize the considerable cost savings available, and support the province's overall efforts to maintain a reliable, low-cost energy supply for generations to come.