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Earth Hour Makes Like the TSX: Power Use Drops 15%

Posted by Joshua / March 28, 2009

Hydro Control Room Earth HourThe cynics took a (well-lit?) backseat tonight during Earth Hour as Torontonians blew past last year's powered down mark on the way to a 15% reduction in electricity use. Just before 9:30 and the official end of Earth Hour the Big Board hit 2545 MW, a 450 MW drop from a typical Toronto Saturday night in late March. That's the rough equivalent of turning off 750,000 60 watt light bulbs.

From my vantage point inside Toronto Hydro's top secret control room it was obvious the extra supervisors and management types (and even live bloggers!) were on hand to see just how low TO could go.

Even with a front row seat to Toronto's participation, WWF-Canada VP and Chief Conservation Officer Arlin Hackman couldn't help but think global. "The big story is what's happening globally," he said, thinking of the roughly 4,000 cities in 80 countries participating. "It's a truly global initiative."

In fact, the WWF wasn't thinking about the drop in electricity, but how many people participated. They were aiming for a billion people participating.

Of course there's no way to measure how many people participated, so those of us in the control room eagerly watched the power load dip lower and lower, from about 2700 MW at 8:30 to about 2550 MW at 9:30. The baseline load is 3000 MW, calculated on a multi-year average for the last Saturday night in March. The reason we start several hundred megawatts below that mark is because the large commercial customers (I'm looking at you, Bay Street!) powered down in advance.

Before Earth Hour even began, we had beaten last year's mark of a 262 MW drop, making it clear just how crucial the large consumers are in making a big dent in power use. In fact, those large consumers represented about half of Toronto's decrease.

Last year Milton lead all GTA municipalities with a 15% drop, a mark Toronto has now matched. As more official numbers come out we'll see who does the best job of turning out the lights. And of course see what our minimum reduction will have to be next year, too. No doubt it will become harder and harder to go lower, but as Arlin pointed out, look how easy it is to reduce our electricity use in such a huge way.

And for all those people who deride Earth Hour as just a symbol, that's ok. Symbols are a powerful thing. Earth Hour may not change or save the world, but it's not meant to. Maybe a few more people will think about their eco-footprint, but regardless, by all accounts, Earth Hour 2009 was a huge success.



Rena Helms-Park / March 29, 2009 at 01:47 am
The evening of March 28, 2009, was a joyous one. I was alone in my home, but I felt one with the community around me. I'd like to celebrate Earth Hour every day - and for more than an hour!

Toronto, next year it should be 25%!!
Jonathan / March 29, 2009 at 02:33 am
The symbolic success of Earth Hour came from the overwhelming majority who did not participate in such a farce of stuff-white-people-like-esque "awareness".

When will Toronto Hydro be asking for a rate increase to compensate for the lost revenue during this period?
Paul / March 29, 2009 at 09:28 am
This is just barely related, but I've never understood why the City can't hire some student for minimum wage, let them ride a bike around the city with a camera, catch the people who hose their sidewalks, and ticket the hell out of them (to pay for the wages ;))?

Its nice that people are willing to do something symbolically, but it'd be nicer if we could just start targeting blatant waste.
Ratpick / March 29, 2009 at 09:38 am
All the neighbourhood kids came to our local park (Sorauren Park) with flashlights. Too bad the city didn't shut off the intense floodlights that they installed in the old fixtures over the winter. Disappointing and wasteful.
Joshua replying to a comment from Paul / March 29, 2009 at 09:49 am
In Las Vegas it isn't a minimum wage student but officers (like traffic cops) who are quick to fine you for hosing your sidewalk or even having a sprinkler that is catching a driveway or sidewalk.

Personally, I've never understood why we must water the grass.
Christopher / March 29, 2009 at 10:18 am
I find it interesting to see how many stars are visible in the after shots when lights are turned off.
Take a look at the before/after shots of the cross on Mont. Royal in Montreal for a great example.
Mark Dowling / March 29, 2009 at 10:30 am
Ratpick - explain to me how battery powered flashlights are greener than floodlights please. Batteries contain heavy metals, and if they are rechargeable then they simply draw power from the mains anyway.
DJ / March 29, 2009 at 10:35 am
The figures are a little suspect. I suspect a "victory" would be declared no matter what happened. The IESO was comparing to a projected energy usage which seemed artificially high. If were to compare the IESO's usual energy demand graph from yesterday (available today) to the special Earth Hour graph (now removed from their site?) the shape of the curves didn't match. What you see is the usual nighttime dip just starts a little earlier.

Now, I know that electrical metering is a complicated topic but I rather suspect the 6% and the 15% figures are arbitrary. The whole thing was ridiculous.
Tron replying to a comment from Paul / March 29, 2009 at 11:05 am
because you hipster, They are already paying a hydro bill for the rights to hose what ever the F they want.

We need to water the grass because unlike hipsters we don't live in a 1 bedroom studio about-to-be-torn-down apartment. And the only reason it won't get torn down because the hipsters are squatters refusing to move out.
Joshua replying to a comment from DJ / March 29, 2009 at 11:34 am
The Ontario graph is going to have a hard time showing the drop during Earth hour because of the scale of the graph. Each line represents 1000 MW - a huge amount.

Toronto Hydro uses 3000 MW as their starting point because for several years prior to the start of Earth Hour, 3000 MW was the average load on the last Saturday in March. But last week the load was over 3000 MW Saturday night as well (it was also maybe 5% colder).

It's true that the load never goes back to pre-Earth Hour levels, but it does go back up before falling off again for the overnight dip. It's just hard to see that without adjusting the scale.
Gary / March 29, 2009 at 11:36 am
I hope Earth Hour is a "gateway drug" leading to more Earth Hours per year. A 15% reduction for 1 hour per year is a good start, but let's see another Earth Hour in 6 months time. I'm sure a lot of big companies are chomping at the bit to have their logos attached to this event.
Paul replying to a comment from Tron / March 29, 2009 at 12:00 pm
I hope you're just trying to be funny, and failing miserably at it.

a) I'm about as far from a "hipster" as it gets and I hate the "OMGGETTHETIMHORTONSOUTOFMYAREA!!!" douchebags with a passion.
b) I'm a strong proponent of reading glasses, which is why I suggest you invest in a pair
c) I saw "water the sidewalk". Where from that did you derive that I said don't water the grass? Maybe its because I'm a "hipster", but none of my neighbourhood's sidewalks have grass - they are concrete.
d) With all the warnings about telling people to watch their water consumption in the summer, just because you pay for it doesn't mean you abuse it. I pay taxes, so should I go to the hospital every 5 minutes to get diagnosed for absolutely nothing just "because I paid for it"?

I'm surprised someone so stupid has the ability to earn enough money to pay for a hydro bill.
Paul / March 29, 2009 at 12:02 pm
fuck. I meant to say "c) I said 'hose the sidewalk'"
Ratpick replying to a comment from Mark Dowling / March 29, 2009 at 12:12 pm
"Ratpick - explain to me how battery powered flashlights are greener than floodlights please. Batteries contain heavy metals, and if they are rechargeable then they simply draw power from the mains anyway."

Read a little closer. Did I say flashlights were green? No.

The kids came to the local park to see the darkness, and were excited enough to bring flashlights. Unfortunately, the city left the floodlights on.

My point was that the city is preaching green, but not practicing it. And spoiled the fun for local kids at the same time.

jamesmallon / March 29, 2009 at 07:21 pm
If you have to water the grass, you have the wrong grass for the climate.
Tron replying to a comment from Paul / March 29, 2009 at 11:31 pm
I stand by what I said.

As long as I pay the hydro bill, by law I can hose whatever I want. That includes sidewalks, grass and hipsters harassing me.
rek replying to a comment from Ratpick / March 30, 2009 at 07:16 am
They brought flashlights to see the dark?
Denise replying to a comment from Tron / March 30, 2009 at 10:07 am
Tron, I concur with Paul, Hosing the pavement is incredibly indulgent and wasteful. It should be illegal.

Frank Ch. Eigler / March 28, 2010 at 05:19 pm
Where can one see the *usage* graphs from earlier such as last day or last month, so one can see for oneself?
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