Columbia saves two megawatts during Earth Hour

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 | 10:20 a.m. CDT
Sanford Speake lights the wicks of dozens of candles for customers at Sycamore on Saturday. Sycamore, along with several other restaurants in downtown Columbia, joined in a global observation of Earth Hour, during which participants worldwide turn off lights for one hour. The event was organized by the World Wildlife Fund in an effort to promote action on climate change.

COLUMBIA — Columbia residents saved two megawatts of electricity during Earth Hour Saturday, according to a news release. 

The Earth Hour event is held every year worldwide to increase knowledge about saving energy and avoiding greenhouse gas emissions, according to the release. Columbia's Earth Hour was 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday. During that hour, residents and businesses were invited to turn off all lights. 

Columbia Water and Light said the electricity saved during that hour is enough to power almost 80 homes in Columbia on an average day. 

The estimation was done with the consideration of unusually warm weather this spring. This was the fifth Earth Hour the city held, and savings were the second highest, according to the release. The 2011 energy savings were the highest. 

Here are the electricity savings from previous years:

2011 — 2.5 megawatt reduction

2010 — 1.58 megawatt reduction

2009 — 1.27 megawatt reduction

2008 — 1.72 megawatt reduction

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Richard Saunders April 3, 2012 | 11:21 a.m.

Here's a clue for the misguided, no electricity was "saved" during Earth Hour. Rather it was wasted, going unused, as potential energy in the grid. In order to realize any true savings, plants would have to lower production, which they cannot feasibly do for a one hour gimmick, as the costs/time required to do so would exceed any savings. Meanwhile, the City lost revenue on 2MW of electricity it purchased/produced.

Instead of wasting energy by pretending to save it, we would be better off by understanding how the system works, and altering our behavior to ensure it can serve our needs EFFICIENTLY. The primary way each of us can do that is to shift our loads to non-peak times. This both helps reduce the peak, which keeps our costs low (as power purchased on the spot market is far more expensive (think convenience store prices)). It also "saves" energy by creating demand during times when it would otherwise not be used (like say, during Earth Hour).

Earth Hour is yet another exercise in stupidity, where common sense is secondary to idiotic, feel-good advocacy. The only point of awareness it raises is the ability to see just how dumb people are willing act in the cause of ignorance.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield April 3, 2012 | 11:48 a.m.

It's as silly as people who advocate replacing a dishwasher or fridge that's only 10 years old because new models are more energy efficient -- but then ignore the energy required to manufacture and transport the new dishwasher or fridge, plus to transport and dispose of the old one in an environmentally friendly way.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders April 3, 2012 | 2:08 p.m.

Jimmy, people have been taught to ignore sunk costs, as energy and materials consumed yesterday no longer count. "Cash for Clunkers" for instance, was a monumental waste once one also factored in the sunk costs that went into the still usable vehicles.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor April 3, 2012 | 3:01 p.m.

That heathan in the picture is burning a fossil fuel during EArTH HoUR !!!

Get Him !!!

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking April 3, 2012 | 3:38 p.m.

Richard Saunders wrote:

"Rather it was wasted, going unused, as potential energy in the grid."

There's no such thing as potential energy on the grid. Generation and load must be closely matched to avoid frequency excursions. That's why minute to minute adjustments in generation are done automatically, by reducing the energy input to the generator(s).

2 megawatt hours saved is the approximate equivalent of 200 therms of natural gas burned in a combustion turbine for electricity (at a heat rate of 10,000 BTU/KWH). That's about as much natural gas as 4-5 average houses per month in winter. It's not a significant amount of savings, but it is a saving.

Jimmy Bearfield wrote:

"It's as silly as people who advocate replacing a dishwasher or fridge that's only 10 years old because new models are more energy efficient..."

It comes down to a matter of payback time, and that can be a tough thing to define. It's easy to calculate for individual owners, and you're right - the only thing that really pays for itself in terms of energy savings is lighting, because incandescent lights are very inefficient. But when you start to look at it like a planner, and recognize that investing in efficiency may avoid having to build another power plant, or more power lines, then the payback and return-on-investment calculations get more complicated.

Cash for Clunkers was simply another (minor) bailout for the auto industry. It didn't make much difference in terms of fleet mileage - the conservation caused by the recession is most of what's reduced our national oil use.


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 3, 2012 | 4:21 p.m.

@ mike mentor & Mark Foecking:

I enjoyed Mike's comment about fossil fuel, but it recalled something I received yesterday from Peabody Energy.

A projection made by International Energy Agency ("World Energy Outlook 2011") projects WORLD electrical energy requirements and the means used to produce them to 2020. I've capitalized "World" so that we remember we're not just talking about the United States.

Electrical generation using combustion of COAL is forecast to be greater than that of gas, oil, hydro, nuclear, geothermal, biomass and solar combined! Why? because nearly all new generating units in the BRIC countries will be coal-fired.

Asian countries alone are expected to comprise 83% of the expansion in electrical power generation.

A major source for the coal needed in Asia is and will be Australia, which will probably become the world's leading exporter.

Demand for coal is expected to rise by 4.4 billion tonnes [metric tons] by 2035.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking April 3, 2012 | 6:12 p.m.

Ellis Smith wrote:

"because nearly all new generating units in the BRIC countries will be coal-fired."

Yes, unfortunately. China has the world's largest coal reserves by almost a factor of four, and Australia doesn't have a large population so has energy to export.

Earth Hour is a harmless symbolic gesture, but that's all it is. It's a few people for 1 hour out of 8760. We will see exactly what 500 and 600 ppm CO2 levels do, and hopefully the effects will not be what a lot of researchers warn of. If only this wasn't the only earth we had to experiment on...


(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle April 3, 2012 | 8:22 p.m.

I didn't participate this year, because I was travelling, and shutting the engine off for an hour would have delayed my arrival by an hour. I was transporting a live animal, too, and nobody's interest was going to be served by prolonging that trip.

I'll give myself a pass on this because I do "earth hour" pretty much every day by using a bike for transportation. It would only be about 2.8 miles round trip parking space to parking space for me, which realistically would use about a pint of gas. I'm saving about 400 KWh of energy per month by cycling (this doesn't include the energy I save by using my bike for transportation on my job).

It takes me about 5 months to match the entire city's Earth Day energy savings by using a bicycle for transportation.

(Report Comment)
frank christian April 3, 2012 | 9:17 p.m.

What about our planet? Sounds like Tom Cruise when criticized for emissions released during an auto race movie. How can anyone complain? We only used about thirty five cars in that movie! How can that compare with the millions of cars driven every day in this country?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 4, 2012 | 5:43 a.m.

Like statistics? Enjoy large numbers? Well, according to the small book "Earth: The Sapphire Planet" (Lanham, Dover Publications) our atmospheric system weighs about 5,200 million million tons. (I prefer use of scientific notation - powers of ten - but I'm sure Lanham wants the number to look as impressive as possible. It's the same weight either way.)

By anyone's definition, that's a BIG system! Big systems tend to have a common characteristic: They aren't easily acted upon by external sources, but when they do fundamentally change - for any reason - it can be difficult or impossible for outside sources to bring them back to their original status.

It's a bit like The mills of God: They [may] grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine. What we have seen last winter and what we may well see this summer in terms of temperature and weather make it increasingly difficult to pass matters off as temporary fluctuations.

Back to coal from Australia: A major stakeholder in Australia's largest coal producer is an American coal company (Peabody Energy). Should you want to picket their world headquarters, it's located in St. Louis.

(Report Comment)

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