Now I am by no means a tree hugger, environmental activist, or one to jump no every environmental band wagon that exists. I am also not someone that intentionally does my part to destroy the planet in whatever way I can. I do my part. I take the bus, which in Halifax is a big sacrifice, I turn my computer off or at least put it in sleep mode when not using it, I am generally light on the gas pedal and I turn off my CFL lights when I am not using them. I will say, however, that the notion of earth hour, in my opinion, is the WORST idea ever to be put into action.
Ideally, tonight, at 8:30, everyone turns off their lights and, depending on how gung ho they are, their computers, TVs, heat and other electrical devices for one hour in an attempt to either save energy or raise awareness for how energy needs to be conserved. First off; energy is always conserved. That is the first law of thermodynamics. Jokes aside, for one hour, people around the globe turn off the switch and make themselves feel good about saving the environment.
One of two scenarios will happen.
Scenario 1: Hardly anyone cares or was not informed and won't do anything. The power saved by light bulbs and other electrical devices of the people that do turn off their lights will hardly be shrugged at. Money to the cause is written off and nothing is done to "save" the environment
Scenario 2: Many people decide to participate: businesses and home-owners alike. At 8:30 the load on the power corporation's generators is drastically reduced. The boilers are still very hot and it will take a long time to adjust to the drastic change in required power as you cant stop a boiler, turbine, and generator that is used to producing hundreds of megawatts of power on a dime!
The power company has 2 options.
- Allow the power to surge across the grid and blow up everything electrical in the city causing fires and mass mayhem.
- Send all that surge power into the larger grid and hope that there is demand for it. causing huge transmission losses that nobody but the power company, and ultimately you, pays for.
Once again the power company has two options.
- Fire up the generators full blast before hand and sell power to other grids in anticipation of everyone turning everything back on all at once and waste power through the transmission lines.
- Allow the system to adjust as best as it can when it happens causing mass brownouts across the city.
For those that observe "Earth Hour," it will happen at 8:30. The sun has gone down and you will need to see for an hour. People light candles and flash lights using more expensive energy to see for an hour. The use of candles increases the risk of fire causing the fire department to get called more often using more diesel to pump more water on more fires requiring more home repairs which require... you guessed it, more electricity and more... I think you get the picture.
Either end of "Earth Hour" inflicts pain on everyone. Like anything, if you want to do something effectively, you must introduce change gradually. Sustainability is about long term decisions, not about punching the power company in the face. The wasted power will ultimately be paid for by you whether you use it or not! The only environmentally responsible choice for tonight is to start thinking about the energy you use on a daily basis and find ways to reduce your overall energy usage.