Earth Hour post-mortem: Ontario fossil generation, CO2 emissions remained steady

I awoke this morning to the usual regurgitation of the usual self congratulatory press releases by utilities claiming another Earth Hour “success.” Toronto Hydro reported a 200-megawatt drop in consumption, the implication being that the annual conserve-fest was responsible. This was obligingly reported by CBC News. What nonsense. Check the consumption patterns on any Saturday evening and you will see similar drops between eight and nine p.m. Yesterday’s drop had nothing to do with Earth Hour, and everything to do with normal consumption patterns.

Meaningless posturing, in the name of the environment. That candle is probably paraffin, which means these Earth Hour observers would have been better off to have just kept their Ontario-electricity-powered lights on. Ontario grid electricity during yesterday’s Earth Hour came with emissions of less than 56 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour. That is clean.

What is really disappointing is that the greenhouse gases from grid electricity remained almost exactly the same during Earth Hour. That is because the provincial fossil-fired fleet, which consists mostly of gas-fired generators, registered a minuscule 36-MW reduction in generator output. That means that their collective GHG emissions were only 21 metric tons less at nine p.m. than at eight.

There was a drop in generator output during Earth Hour, but that was almost entirely from the provincial hydro fleet. Hydro generators collectively generated 357 megawatts less at nine than at eight.

But who cares. Hydro emits no greenhouse gases. Ontarians could have increased power consumption during Earth Hour, and our collective GHGs would have been the same.

It is disappointing that no media have reported that little fact. Earth Hour was totally irrelevant. The best thing about it is that it is over, and we don’t have to listen to the meaningless, uninformed hype.

It is probably needless for me to point out that I did not observe Earth Hour. I don’t think there is anything wrong with electricity; in fact I find a lot of things right with it. Exhortations to use less of it are based on fundamental lack of understanding of the kinds of energy we use and why we use them. And almost without exception, those who boost Earth Hour like it is meaningful are also boosters of the least efficient and most resource-intensive kinds of electricity.

So I kept the lights on and watched, on my (electric-powered) flat screen, the (electrically broadcast) Leafs-Bruins hockey game, which was played on artificial ice. The Leafs won.

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James Greenidge
10 years ago

What gets me is that the kids are hustled into swallowing this specious ego-cleansing nonsense on each side the border. This sickeningly popular “less is better” mantra sure is proving itself in scholastic scores all right.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Rasmus Kiehl
10 years ago

Earth Hour is mostly a distraction. Similar to (most) recycling, where the main result is that people can say “Oh, I recycle my plastic garbage, so I don’t have to do much else, it is all taken care of…”.

Here is an Earth Hour that I could actually support: if a utility announced “OK folks, we’ll switch off this gas-fired power plant here for the next hour, to show that we can do without it. Everybody please look at the grid stats in real time. If CO2 emissions decline relative to the average Saturday night, we’ll count that as a success.”

For a number of years now I have been visiting the Green Living Show in Toronto (coming up April 12-14, 2013). For an equal number of years I have been emailing OPG to please be present next time to inform the public about the carbon benefits of nuclear energy, and to counteract the Greenpeace et al., propaganda. To no avail. Perhaps Steve Aplin you have better contacts.

Joel Riddle
10 years ago

Here is my all-time favorite post about Earth Hour.