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.