Time Is Energy (And ‘Clocks Forward’ Daylight Uses Less)

Dawn (small).jpg‘Daylight saving’ is a strange notion. But ‘daylight energy saving’ is a very different consideration. How we arrange the hours of light and darkness across our working day has many impacts – which makes it all the more curious that so little high profile or current research has been focused on British Summer Time and rationales for why the clocks ‘go back’ in the Winter.
My recent piece on British Summer Time has drawn a lot of comment, both on and off this website.
Highway at night.jpgThere are people who seem simply not to mind whether / when it’s light or dark as they go about their daily business, but there are many others who have responded quite strongly in terms of their need for as much daylight as possible. It must be very helpful in some ways not to mind how dark it is, but it’s quite incomprehensible to others that there are folk who genuinely ‘don’t mind’. Perhaps it’s rather like being ‘colour blind’ – if you don’t perceive the difference between red and green you just accept (and may not even know about) it; or maybe some of us have physiologies which are more photo-sensitive than others.
Daylight saving is energy saving
The most important thing to come out of the discussions so far, however, is not that people may have different personal preferences, but that the terms of engagement in this debate are becoming clearer.
One striking aspect of so-called ‘daylight saving’ which is emerging, alongside the prime safety considerations, is its significance not only potentially for business efficiency, but also, even more crucially, for energy. It does begin to look very much as though more ‘summertime’ would keep energy consumption down.
Where’s the evidence?
A big surprise in all this is the paucity of serious publicly available evidence other than on safety (avoidance of accidents). It seems in some respects that the last substantial governmental research in this area was conducted in 1989.
That was now seventeen years ago. Since then, it need hardy be said, much has changed.
Business and technological practices are much different from those dismal years of two decades ago. Our consciousness of the energy crisis and of ecological issues is far better developed now than it was then. The public (electorate) is now far more aware of the issues of sustainability than they could possibly have been in the 1980s.
What’s the cost-benefit of ‘daylight saving’?
So where is the cost-benefit analysis of the different ways in wihich we might distribute the eternally pre-ordained number of daylight hours we have at our disposal, summer and winter? Common sense suggests that arranging things so there’s as much daylight as possible in the hours when most people can use it is a good start.
If anybody really knows the answer, please just let us know!
The full debate about BST is in the section of this website entitled
BST: British Summer Time & ‘Daylight Saving’ (The Clocks Go Back & Forward)…..

Read the discussion of this article which follows the book E-store…

Confronting Climate Change: Strategies for Energy Research and Development
Lumie Bright SPK Light Therapy

Posted on April 1, 2006, in Arts, Culture And Heritage, BST: British Summer Time And 'Daylight Saving', Education, Health And Welfare, Events And Notable Dates, Knowledge Ecology And Economy, Politics, Policies And Process, Sustainability As If People Mattered and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Just a reminder that there are on this site quite a lot of other articles (and commentaries) on this topic, too…. please see top left hand side as above*.
    Thanks for all the comments so far.
    * or go direct to the “British Summer Time and Daylight Saving” topic category on this site (see LH column of Home page) for the whole debate so far, by clicking on ‘Hilary & BST’ below:

  2. Nicholas Teasdale

    Sorry James, but all authoritative research shows that you’re wrong.
    RoSPA’s research proves that road safety would be improved (see their website), there’s a substantial body of research that shows that a switch to Central European Time would produce major business & social benefits across the UK, US research into energy shows that the cumulative affect of small savings is substantial and underpins the US governmemt’s extension of daylight saving hours from 2007, and… the BST experiment between 1968 & 1972 was completely different from what’s being proposed: it extended daylight saving hours in the winter but made no change to summer daylight saving hours and, as such, is a flawed reference point.
    You don’t need to rely on “gut reactions” when, with more time spent on researching the subject, the answers are self evident.

  3. If we want to save energy, what we should really do is NOT change the clocks. Just leave them on BST all year around. It takes a lot of my energy to change the 30 or so clocks we have around the house/cars/boat etc!!
    ~ ~ ~
    [Precisely! You may like to sign the petition-pledge re: SaveOurDaylight which I mention in my posting of 29 October ’06. Hilary]

  4. Your link to “keep energy consumption down” leads eventually to a short paragraph on possible energy savings and refers to “studies done by the U.S. Department of Transportation show that daylight saving time trims the entire country’s electricity usage by a significant, but small amount, of less than one percent each day with daylight saving time.” This figure is repeated in Nigel Beard’s proposed Bill following more recent research.
    So there we have it – less than 1% saving in electricity. Doesn’t mention increased costs of commuting by car in the dark for instance.
    And talking of commuting, saving lives in commuting accidents is always promoted. In 1968 and 1969 when we last tried BST through the year, there were 2,500 fewer fatal accidents on the roads. In 1998 an update to the research suggested that 450 lives would be saved. Of course this is a drop in the ocean of total deaths on UK roads (which is a scandal for another day).
    http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=1208 has an interesting graph on deaths on UK roads. Since the end of the last BST experiment, fatal road accidents have consistently fallen year on year, down from 11,000 in 1972 (the end of the BST experiment) to about 4000 in 2004. There was a spike around the time of the BST experiment which BST proponents conveniently ignore….)
    Much more work is needed on this. The life and energy savings, while worthy, have yet to be proven and justified against competing uses of the same money. For example, funding the replacement of ordinary lightbulbs with energy saving bulbs would have a far more siginificant effect on enery consumption in UK houses.
    The debate on daylight deserves better than the simple gut reaction that more daylight is good.

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