Earth Hour saves Columbia highest amount of energy yet

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 | 6:09 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Columbia saw the greatest reduction in power use during Saturday’s Earth Hour since first participating in the global event in 2008.

The city saved an estimated 2.5 megawatts of electricity when participants turned off their lights between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m, Connie Kacprowicz of Columbia Water and Light said. She said 2.5 megawatts is enough energy to power 98 homes in Columbia on an average day.

The closest Columbia came to 2.5 megawatts before this year was in 2008, when 1.72 megawatts was saved. Earth Hour saved Columbia 1.58 megawatts in 2010 and 1.27 in 2009, Kacprowicz said.

Columbia Water and Light determines the amount of energy saved by comparing the amount of energy used during Earth Hour with the hour before and after, Kacprowicz said, as well as the amount used during the day before and after and during the same time last year.

Looking at comparative data when determining the amount of energy saved is especially important because Earth Hour occurred when many Columbia residents might have been out of town because of spring break, she said.

Kacprowicz said that a more accurate estimate was not possible at this time because most meters in the city are read just once a month. The city only has automatic readings for large users and some apartment buildings.

“You can’t read too much into the numbers,” Kacprowicz said. “What you can see is that people contributed to Earth Hour and that we had more community support.”

Monta Welch, president of the Columbia Climate Change Coalition, has helped organize Earth Hour in Columbia every year the city has participated in the event. According to her organization’s website, 47 businesses participated in Earth Hour in 2011, up from 27 in 2010.

Welch echoed Kacprowicz in saying that it was participation that mattered more than the amount of energy saved.

“A lot of people miss the point,” Welch said. “Earth Hour’s not about saving energy for one hour. That’s icing on the cake, if you will. It’s really more about looking at where each individual and group is at with their own contribution to sustainability."

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