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Saving daylight and energy

April 27, 2010

A month into British Summer Time, are you enjoying the lengthening spring evenings?

It’s interesting that we assume evenings are ‘long’, and therefore more productive, simply because the daylight lasts longer.  It’s as if nothing constructive can be done by artificial light.

Living and working and enjoying leisure activities when it’s dark outside is perfectly possible, but there’s something about daylight that makes even housebound couch potatoes happy.

Statistics link dark evenings with an increase in road accidents, but it’s unlikely that statistics are people’s prime concern – we are generally creatures of instinct, driven by what feels right.  The stark figures, of course, can then be profitably used by those campaigning for an extra hour’s daylight in winter (a shift to GMT+1, followed by GMT+2 in summer). 

Daylight could also have an effect on our unconscious, tapping into an atavistic yearning for light, the flip side of our fear of the dark.  Or the extra vitamin D our bodies are getting could be telling our brains that soaking in the sun’s rays is a good idea.  An effective treatment for sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) involves sitting in front of a light box, requiring exposure to light much stronger than that provided by standard light bulbs: they literally brighten up.

It’s unlikely any daylight saving reform would have an impact on the effectiveness of solar panels, as they would still be getting the same amount of energy from the sun whatever the clock says.  However, there are more general environmental benefits.  A Cambridge University study used an exploratory regression method to suggest that if the clocks were advanced by an hour in winter there would be ‘a reduction in peak demand for electricity of up to 4.3% during periods of high demand’ and that the electricity ‘wasted on GMT’ could have supplied 200,000 households and saved around 447,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.

As we saw with our blog on keeping town centres viable, social and cultural benefits often accompany environmental ones.  Longer evenings would see folk out and about more, chatting to neighbours and, in the case of children (and perhaps some adults), playing in the streets.

However, this blogger is neither particularly pro nor anti a change, and wonders whether people couldn’t just get up an hour earlier, starting work at 8am rather than 9am and leaving at 4pm.  There’s no need to wait expectantly for a politicians to give the thumbs-up.  Most bosses encourage flexible working, and if enough people do this then the culture will change.  Perhaps the evolution of our habits will mean eating lunch at noon, and elevenses will become tenses.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Janet permalink
    May 5, 2010 3:45 pm

    I think that this country should advance our clocks by one hour because a saving of 447,ooo tonnes of carbon emissions is well worth it. People will complain as they automatically do when any great change is suggested, but in time everyone would get used to it . The media of course would promptly high light every road accident trying to pin it on the change in hours of daylight (i.e children going to school in the morning in Scotland in darkness)

    • solarukweblog permalink*
      May 5, 2010 4:26 pm

      Changing the clocks could be accompanied by a Government campaign to urge everyone to wear reflective clothing when near a busy road at dawn or dusk. Bicyclists are especially lax in this department.

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