The electricity impacts of Earth Hour and other coordinated energy demand shifting actions

Panel: 8. Dynamics of consumption

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Authors:
Sarah Olexsak, Johns Hopkins University, USA
Alan Meier, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA

Abstract

The annual Earth Hour event is a coordinated, mass effort to reduce electricity consumption for one hour. Earth Hour’s objective is to call attention to environmentally sustainable action through the collective impact made when individuals, businesses, governments and communities voluntarily combine electricity conservation efforts. Earth Hour events have taken place in Australia, Canada, Philippines, Europe, and other countries since 2007. We compiled 274 measurements of observed changes in electricity demand caused by Earth Hour events in 10 countries, spanning 6 years. During the Earth Hour event, these coordinated actions reduced electricity consumption an average of 4.0%, with a range of +2% (New Zealand) to -28% (Canada). While the goal of Earth Hour is not to achieve measurable electricity savings, the collective events illustrate how purposeful behaviour can quantitatively affect regional electricity demand. Similar actions may be a useful demand-control strategy during temporary electricity shortfalls or other crises. The policy challenge is to convert these short-term events into longer-term actions, including sustained changes in behaviour and investment. Other events cause coordinated reductions or increases in electrical demand, such as popular television programs and sporting events. These sharp drops and peaks lead to inefficient generation requirements and, potentially, grid failure. In one case, a coordinated, mass, increase in consumption was used for political purposes. Together these events demonstrate the importance of short-term behaviour on energy demand and possible applications to energy policies.

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