Earth Hour hoopla fails to move Ontario: conservation proponents head back to the drawing board

At seven p.m. on Saturday, March 29, Ontario’s total electricity output was 17,375 megawatts. At eight p.m., Earth Hour, it was 17,536 MW, and an hour later it was 17,727. Power use increased from eight p.m. to nine p.m., and during that hour the fossil-fueled generators in the system put over 4,500 tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the air.

Sorry, but the numbers don’t lie. Earth Hour had no effect on Ontario’s power consumption.

We could argue about whether a cold Saturday night is the best time to hold such an event. In my opinion, the best time would have been at 5 p.m. yesterday, when the provincial fossil-fired plants were helping meet the normal additional demand, plus covering for temporary nuclear generator outages. Emission intensity of Ontario power at that time was more than 300 grams per kilowatt-hour. Between five and six p.m. on Friday the 28th, GHG emissions were over 5,200 tonnes.

What’s the best way to reduce emissions? Conservation, or offsetting coal with non-emitting generation? And if the latter, what kind of non-emitting generation? Don’t forget that non-emitting generation has to meet electricity demand, which, as Earth Hour 2008 has proved, remains stubbornly constant in spite of massive media campaigns and high profile voluntary outages at big public buildings.

How much more proof do we need that lighting is just a bit player in electricity use? The irrelevance of Earth Hour 2008 in Ontario ought to show irrelevant it is to ban incandescent lightbulbs in this province. As I pointed out in March 2007, banning incandescents is an irrelevant waste of time.

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