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Daylight saving and energy use -

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Daylight saving and energy use

Does daylight saving mean less energy is used by a community? Or more? Nicky Phillips reports.


Robyn Williams: Do we need daylight saving? It starts in most places around the country this
weekend and it's nice having longer evenings and not being woken up by the dawn at 5am, but does it
really save energy? Nicky Phillips reports.

Nicky Phillips: The original idea behind daylight saving was to conserve energy. It was first
introduced during WWI to save fuel. Many countries adopted the practice; The US, Australia and in
Europe. But after the war, clocks returned to standard time. The same thing happened during WWII.
It was in the middle of a drought in 1967 that Tasmania became the first state in Australia to
introduce daylight saving to save power. They believed it would save water too. Daylight saving was
so popular in Tasmania that the rest of the country, except WA and NT, followed with a trial
period. In 1972, NSW, SA, the ACT and Victoria made daylight saving permanent.

But recently questions have been raised about daylight saving. Does it really save energy? Last
year a paper published by two American economists, Ryan Kellogg and Hendrick Wolff, reviewed energy
consumption in Victoria and SA during the Sydney Olympics. During that time Victoria extended its
daylight saving hours by two months, while SA did not. So was energy saved in Victoria during those
extra months? Apparently not. Even after correcting for changes in behaviour and weather, the study
found that energy consumption increased.

Since the report by Kellogg and Wolff, several other studies have measured energy consumption,
comparing standard and daylight saving time. They too have found a nonexistent or negligible
difference as the clock changes. Several studies have found that energy use actually increases
during daylight saving. The obvious savings from evening lighting are being offset with morning
lights and air conditioning. Despite this evidence, in 2007 as part of its energy policy, many US
states began to trial an additional month of daylight saving. Many believed this would conserve
more energy. It was even predicted that by 2020 America will have saved $329 million on energy
because of daylight saving.

A report by the US Department of Energy, due out in the next week or so, will determine whether or
not the daylight saving extension has actually saved energy. Here in Australia NSW, the ACT,
Victoria and SA also decided to trial an extension of daylight saving. The main reasons for the
trial weren't to conserve energy but to increase leisure time and align the east coast states. The
trouble is, Queensland still won't join in. On the upside, people in the south will have an extra
hour for outdoor activities in the evening.

Last year was also the year Western Australia decided to give daylight saving a go with a
three-year trial. Their reasons for switching to daylight saving, despite three referenda deciding
against it, are both to conserve energy and reduce the time difference with the east.

The effects of the US Department of Energy study, due out shortly, will be significant whatever the
outcome. It could further fuel the growing number of studies that show daylight saving does
anything but conserve energy and lead to a re-evaluation for using daylight saving at all, or it
could be exactly what daylight saving supporters are looking for; proof that it does really save
energy and that the one-month extension should become permanent. We'll keep you posted.