Earth Hour not about energy savings, WWF says

Symbolic actions more important to combat climate change

Delta Victoria Ocean Point Resort and Spa assistant front office manager Justin Foisy and guest services staff Victoria Zsombor get ready for Earth Hour March 26 when the hotel will read Dr. Seuss by candlelight and serving Earth cookies and milk.

Homes, hotels and restaurants will flick the switch this Saturday for Earth Hour, round four.

At the Delta Ocean Point Hotel, for example, the 60 minutes of darkness will be put to use with storytime as staff read from Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax and serve up earth-themed cookies and milk.

Greater Victoria restaurants have planned candle-lit dinners for the international event.

“We have fabulous participation across the country,” said Jo Anne Walton, communications director with WWF Canada, the body that organizes Earth Hour. “We have over … 50 per cent participation. The thing is, there’s probably a lot more because it’s not all tracked. That’s the success of this movement.”

Despite WWF’s assertion that participation is high, the energy savings numbers haven’t shown Earth Hour results make a drastic change.

Provincially, energy consumption dipped 1.04 per cent during Earth Hour 2010 – in Victoria, consumption was reduced by 1.4 per cent, according to B.C. Hydro.

“The savings aren’t huge, but we see this more of an awareness-building event,” said Simi Heer, a B.C. Hydro spokesperson.

When it comes to determining whether Earth Hour makes a difference to people’s energy consumption year round, Heer said “that would be hard to measure.”

By contrast, B.C. Hydro’s PowerSmart program, which offers incentives and online self-monitoring tools to help people manage their use all year, has brought on consistent energy savings, Heer said.

While WWF tracks participation, Walton said Earth Hour is more about a symbolic action against climate change to send a message to all levels of government than an hour where consumption should take a dive.

“When you measure success by the energy drop, as opposed to overall response from Canadians, it can be a crude measure because it can be affected by outside factors, like weather,” Walton said.

In fact, in 2008, Calgary’s energy consumption increased more than three per cent during Earth Hour.

Earth Hour is 8:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday (March 26).

ecardone@vicnews.com

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