Nanaimo cuts power during in Earth Hour

An estimated 150 countries turn out the lights in a symbolic gesture to conserve electricity.

Nanaimo was one of 91 British Columbia communities that took part in Earth Hour Saturday in a symbolic effort to reduce energy consumption.

Earth Hour is an annual global event, created by the World Wildlife Fund in 2007 and supported in B.C. by B.C. Hydro, that encourages people to turn off unnecessary lights and electronics.

By turning off lights, televisions and other power consumers for an hour Saturday evening, British Columbians saved 121 megawatt hours of electricity and reduced the provincial electricity load by 1.67 per cent, on par with last year’s Earth Hour. That’s the equivalent of turning off about nine million 12.5-watt LED light bulbs.

Nanaimo’s efforts resulted in a 2.6-per cent energy reduction, 22nd out of 91 participating communities. Revelstoke topped the list with a 12.1-per cent reduction for the hour from 8:30-9:30 p.m., followed by Pemberton at 6.8 per cent and Ladysmith at 5.8 per cent.

Rob Lawrance, environmental planner for Nanaimo, said city hall participated by turning off the big screens in Diana Krall Plaza and on the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, as well as by turning off unnecessary lighting at many city-owned facilities.

“This is the fifth year Nanaimo has participated, so it has become pretty much a routine for us,” said Lawrance. “And I think it has become routine for a lot of residents as well which is a good thing. A reminder it’s important to conserve.”

Charles Reid, acting president and CEO for B.C. Hydro, said the event helps reinforce the company’s effort to meet energy goals through a reduction in demand.

“Energy conservation is the most cost-effective way to meet future energy demand,” said Reid in a release. “If people applied the same simple conservation measures for even one hour every day for the whole year, the combined savings would power close to 4,000 homes for an entire year.”

Reid added that next year, when smart meters are fully functional, people will be able to track their own energy savings in real time through a secure online portal.

Because B.C. is growing, so is its need for electricity. B.C. Hydro is working to meet at least 66 per cent of new electricity demand through conservation and energy efficiency by 2020. In the last three years alone, B.C. Hydro’s Power Smart programs have saved close to 3,000 gigawatt hours of electricity, enough to power 270,000 homes annually.

“Everyone who took the opportunity to participate in Earth Hour deserves our thanks for helping to demonstrate the merit of energy conservation,” said Rich Coleman, B.C.’s minister of energy and mines. “We look forward to building on this success as we work together to find ways to further conserve energy and keep electricity rates as low as possible for British Columbians.

On April 1, B.C. Hydro raised its rates by seven per cent.

Worldwide, according to WWF, an estimated 150 countries and 6,494 towns and cities took part. For an hour, lights went out on the Lion’s Gate Bridge, Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House and other iconic landmarks around the globe to symbolize a reduction in energy use.