Daylight Saving Gives Up The Ghost (For Now…)

It’s Hallowe’en weekend and that precious hour of afternoon light is set to go till next Spring; but perhaps at long last common sense will prevail. With luck and one more push (believe me, over the years there have been many) the spectre of Winter nights starting sometime after lunch will be gone, and the many advantages of keeping British Summer Time (one hour ahead of GMT) will become reality. Research is clear on benefits to energy, health and even lives. Now we need to banish ghosts of mistaken mythology about the disbenefits of ‘daylight saving’…..

We now know that a UK change to keep ‘Summer Time’ year-round would have the equivalent effect of taking 200,000 cars off Britain’s roads.

A study conducted by Dr Elizabeth Garnsey of Cambridge University for the 10:10 Lighter Later climate change campaign has found that putting the clocks forward by an hour during the winter could save 450,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, helping to reduce peak electricity demand. And that is by no means the only benefit which would accrue from this change.

Here is a quote from the 10.10 Lighter Later campaign (weblink as above) event in Westminster in June 2010:

Dr. Garnsey and her team have been studying electricity demand in the UK for the past five years with particular focus on the weeks before and after the clock changes. The results she presented are clear. Were the UK to switch to GMT+1 in the winter there would be a clear 6GWh saving per day in the winter months alone.

“Translating that into carbon [dioxide] tonnes, that would have been around half a million tonnes saved. Which of course is cumulative: since the 1971 trial 20m tonnes of carbon dioxide could have been saved,” she said.

Dr. Garnsey’s second point, that the most important effect of Lighter Later is on peak demand, was stronger still: “Lower peak demand results in lower price of electricity and lower pollution on GMT+1 in winter. We found that peaks in demand could have been reduced by up to 4%. The reason is that when overall electricity demand surges beyond a certain level, the sources used to cover the peaks are the most inefficient and polluting. We estimate between a 0.6% and 0.8% saving overall.”

She added: “Think interest rates, because electricity prices have a similar knock-on effect over the economy as a whole. So there would definitely be winter savings on GMT+1.”

Robert Gifford of the Parliamentary Advisory Committee on Transport Safety (PACTS) restated his organisation’s support with some strong accident and financial numbers. During the trial of 1968 to 1971 there were 2,500 fewer road deaths. That translates into a conservative figure of 74 to 98 road deaths per annum today. Valuing the cost to the economy of each death at £1.5m, he argued that this would represent a saving to the tax payer of over £100m per annum, money that the NHS, for example, desperately needs.

The case was similarly made for tourism by Colin Dawson of BALPPA, who claimed the boost to the UK inbound industry would be as much as £3bn. Add in the fact that five of the nation’s top ten participation sports are light dependent and the health and obesity benefits are clear.

The number of Scottish lives saved and injuries prevented would be 20% greater proportionally than in the rest of the UK. Once again disproportionately Scots appear to be the major beneficiaries of change.

There was also space on the panel for Dr. Mayer Hillman of the Policy Studies Institute. Dr. Hillman is currently researching the positive economic impact of Lighter Later on Scotland. At the conference he gave compelling reasons why the change would positively impact the personal security of two key societal groups: the elderly and the young.

At present there is not a great deal of organised support against Lighter Later’s proposal, however there are firmly held cultural beliefs in parts of the UK, and particularly in Scotland, that the change will be less positive for those north of the border. Most speakers touched on this and called these views simply misinformed. Dr. Garnsey had some upfront statistics:

“[During the ’68-’71 trial] there was an actual 8.6% net reduction in Scottish road deaths but this was disbelieved because it was in the face of a strongly held conviction that the trial had been a mistake… In fact the Transport Reseach Lab showed at least a hundred fewer deaths.”

Tom Mullarkey of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), who have been campaigning for 60 years on the issue, argued that in fact, Scotland would stand to benefit more than the rest of the UK from the move.

“The number of lives saved and injuries prevented would be 20% greater proportionally than in the rest of the UK. I don’t think people in Scotland realise this. In terms of the GDP that depends on tourism, it’s 4% in England and Wales, but in Scotland it’s just over 10%. Once again disproportionately Scots appear to be the major beneficiaries of change.”

Given that we can surely all adapt our private lives to a degree, to accommodate the slight changes which an hour’s difference would make, what, as we have been asking on this website for years, is there here to disagree with?

Posted on October 28, 2010, in BST: British Summer Time And 'Daylight Saving' and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Trevor Goldsworthy

    I remember when we had the extra hour in the late 60s’ and it was an absolute disaster. It is not only the people in the North of the country who suffer, remember people like me in Cornwall who being 5deg West in longitude, are already 20 minutes behind GMT. Any further addition of an hour makes it that we are getting up in the middle of the night.
    In the late 60’s, I was serving my apprenticeship at the local engineering works which meant a 7.30am start, but this would be a 6.30am start in GMT if we went an hour ahead, in winter the sun does not rise in Cornwall till about 8.20am which is 9.20 BST. We left work at at 4.30pm GMT and as the sun sets at about 4.20pm even with the extra hour, by the time you get home, it would be dark anyway and no good to do anything else. How can you tell animals and pets to get up early?
    As for road safety, that’s just a limp excuse. As one comment said, if you want things earlier, then tell the businesses to get up earlier. If you want safer driving, get higher standards instead of the increasing lowering of standards we have these days. I’m an ex motorcycling instructor, so know what I am talking about. Don’t let the majority suffer for the stupid excuses of the minority.

    • Thanks for the contribution; but sorry, Trevor, I think you yourself are asking the ‘majority to suffer’ for your own perceived inconvenience, not the other way around.
      If there are a few businesses in Cornwall which need a different arrangement, why can’t they adjust their hours, rather than suggesting that adjustment instead for the vast number of businesses elsewhere – which would, like traffic safety stats, energy consumption and general well-being in the overall population, benefit from the proposed change to permanent ‘summer time’?
      No-one is stopping Cornish local businesses (including farmers) changing their hours to accommodate year-long BST, if they want to…
      PS I live quite a lot ‘up north’ myself; not a ‘southerner’!

  2. James,
    Yes you can get up earlier but a lot of activities are restricted by the social times of work and we would benefit from more time in the evening after work.
    You have misunderstood re Europe, the proposed change would mean we are exactly aligned. You are right about changes in cars but the ROSPA research has taken this into account and has reduced the estimate of road deaths from 200 to 100. It’s still 100 dead people a year – unneccessarily.
    The bill on 3rd Dec is asking for the research to be done to settle the arguments.
    Please write to your MP in support!

  3. Want more light? Get up earlier! Want fewer road deaths? Drive more carefully!

    Why should the rest of us who like getting up in the light be held hostage to the vociferous demands of a vocal minority of night owls who have difficulty getting up in the mornings? How does this centralist policy fit with the current zeitgeist’s “Big Society”?

    I remain to be convinced about the road safety argument – cars, roads, lights and driving patterns are vastly different from the early 70’s.

    Realistically though there is a case for energy savings, but do we little Englanders really want to be two hours adrift from our mainland European neighbours?

  4. Now we are back with GMT we are inconvenienced to a massive degree. As a keeper of chicken they have to be penned at dusk as a precaution against foxes – another piece of stupid legislation to ban hunting and I have to let them out at first light. With GMT that means before 7am relese and before 4pm shutting them up for the night making the afternoons useless for many purposs and it an unnecessary imposition to have to let these fowl out so early.
    Also and self evidently the hour extra daylight in the evenings is more use than in the morning. If there are protests that Scottish crofters need the light am let Scotland set their own time zone afterall they do have their own hot air factory (sorry , parliament)

  5. It’s time to campaign on this and make it a political issue about quality of life. The best thing is to change clocks twice per year but in the continental European time zone (1 hour ahead). In southern England this would mean dusk at 5pm in winter and 11pm in summer.

    The main objection to this has always come from people in the north of Scotland who used to have a fair point – which is no longer fair. Why? Since devolution, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may opt into a different time zone from England if they wish. If the Scots want to live an hour behind the rest of the UK that’s their call.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: