Green Spot: Earth Hour – What’s the Point?

So another Earth Hour is fast approaching tomorrow night people will turn off their lights from 8:30pm to 9:30pm in their local time zone.  Some people may recall I did an extended period of this last year.  So is this going to change the world? Ah, no.

Let’s do the math shall we: there is approximately 400,000 residential users of power in SK.  So let’s say for practical purposes we get 80% of the people trying it (I know, not likely) and they on average turn off two regular bulbs each.  60 W x 2 x 400,000 x 0.8 = 38.4 MW.  The grid average yesterday when I was at work was about 2500 MW.  So the total savings would be 1.5% for one hour.  So almost nothing.

So what’s the point?  If nothing else it is an excellent PR campaign that people can easily get involved with thinking about their energy usage.  Yet to really get people to be serious about their energy usage you need to put in some price influences.  Some common ideas include: have threshold billing, so if you are a higher user of power in a month you pay more on that power.  Another idea is to use time of day billing to get people to shift power loads from the noon and supper time peaks.

The overall point is people won’t change their usage now, since the payback is so low.  Yet under more expensive power it becomes more attractive to change habits.  Education will only go so far to get really change you need to hit people in the pocket book.  This will even apply to business as well.  Now this can be started either now as a demand management exercise or it can start later after there is no chose to raise rates to cover new pollution control technologies like an FGD for SOx or carbon injection for mercury control and eventually something to deal with CO2.  Cheap power is coming to an end shortly regardless. Even in those places with large amounts of hydro eclectic generation, the market demand from other regions will edge rates up everywhere.

Yet for now, enjoy the party.  Get out some candles, perhaps something to drink and sit down and visit with some friends.  Make the evening something fun.  Just don’t get fooled into thinking your saving the world by doing it.

3 thoughts on “Green Spot: Earth Hour – What’s the Point?”

  1. I think it is a way for people to indicate their support for saving energy. I hope it will influence political decisions in that direction.

    For example, I would like to see all provinces in Canada give serious consideration to letting private systems like solar and wind sell excess energy to the grid. I don’t know the details and obstacles but I understand California and Ontario have already taken that step.

    There are plenty of private opportunities to do this but “the system” is standing in the way.

  2. CM,

    Saskatchewan you can also do it. The limitation is you can only offset your full bill in a year, you can’t make a profit at it yet.

    A bit of a problem with ‘the system’ is the distribution network was set up to deliver power, not to receive it. So all this talk of ‘smart grids’ is just about upgrading everything to handle the two way power flows.


  3. My older kids were amazingly excited again this year by earth hour (eight and six years old). As they grow up this is going to be one of those powerful childhood memories that will effect their future choices. How much time did we spend thinking about mother earth when we were kids? I remember geography and evolution but not much else.

    I remember Participaction though. I think Earth Hour is going to have a significant impact on our kids. The future is in their hands!

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