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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Earth Hour NS Redux

Did Nova Scotia actually do well during Earth Hour 2010? At first glance, the reported numbers sounded pretty good, but my neighbourhood didn't seem to be paying all that much attention to it. Time for a reality check.

I always understand energy savings best when I convert it into dollars and cents. So let's do the math.

18-megaWatts saved over one hour = 18,000kWh

1 kWh costs roughly 11 cents so 18,000kWH x $0.11/kWh = $1980

This is, unfortunately, trivial. And not in the good, this will be a question later, way.

This amount of savings is roughly half of one household's electric use for the year (if they have electric heat) and akin to removing 19 or 20 dryers from the province for a year. Or removing 35-40 stoves from daily operation for one year.

NS Power's 1.4 million lightbulb figure is also a bit misleading. While it would take 1.4 million 13-watt bulbs to be turned off to account for the savings, it shrinks dramatically if it were measured in 100 Watt incandescent bulbs (only 180,000), or in 42" televisions (only 36,000). Think of the environmental impact we would have if every Nova Scotian gave up watching one 3-hour hockey broadcast per year.

Similarly, 1.4 million bulbs over one hour is the same as turning off a measly 384 13-watt bulbs for only ten hours a day for a year... That one light store featured yesterday could probably tackle that kind of savings by installing a few timers. As would any single grocery store that leaves its lights on all night.

While I still firmly support the message behind Earth Hour, I think my initial applause should be muted. The real success of the event will be to see others change their habits on a regular basis through the year. Is it necessary for our bridges to be lit every night from midnight to 6:00am? (The road lights were still on, so it's not a safety issue.) Is there more that we should be doing on an ongoing basis? Definitely.

Earth Hour is done for 2010, and it appeared to raise a lot of awareness but evidentally, not much actual energy savings. Let's use this information to make some real changes on a daily basis. I for one will be installing a new clothes line in the next few days. What will you do?



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