Earth Hour B.C.: will you turn out the lights for an hour?

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Earth Hour energy savings wane in B.C., but WWF says event still relevant

Once again, for the tenth time since 2008, BC Hydro is encouraging residents and businesses in the province to turn off lights and any unnecessary electronics from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m PT.

"I think for us, this has always really been a symbolic event," said BC Hydro spokesperson Mora Scott.

"It's about raising awareness about conservation and the simple things you can do in your home to save money and save energy."

The comments come as electricity savings in B.C. during Earth Hour, which began in Australia in 2007, have been significantly lower since 2013.

In 2013 a 1.95 per cent reduction was achieved by having residents, businesses and organizations turn lights and electronics off for one hour. There was a total savings of 136 megawatt hours

In 2015, British Columbians saved only 15 megawatt hours — the lowest savings since 2008, but still the equivalent of turning off 680,000 LED lights.

There is no data available from BC Hydro for 2016 because the World Wildlife Fund, which originated the event, moved Earth Hour to earlier in March.

That combined with the move to daylight time meant Earth Hour power use could not be properly compared with consumption at the same time the week before.

Still BC Hydro says 178 countries participated in 2016, and some municipalities like Whistler still make a big deal about it.

In 2015, the resort municipality lead the province with a 7.2 per cent reduction in electricity load during the hour.

"Energy conservation continues to be the foundation of the [Whistler] approach to climate responsibility," said the municipality in a release, which encourages residents to participate again this year and share their stories online.

"We live in an era of climate responsibility; climate change is a certainty, as is the human responsibility for it," added the release.

BC Hydro says Earth Hour is more than just turning off lights for one hour.

"This is a great opportunity to talk about energy conservation and how you can do things differently in your home to save power," said Scott.

The utility says residents can monitor their own electricity use through online MyHydro accounts, and compare use to a previous Saturday.

This year, it will release the reduction in electricity load after the event.

In the meantime the utility wants to remind residents that turning off lights and unnecessary electronics items is important — lighting can make up to 15 per cent of power use.

And, since 2002, BC Hydro has spent more than $1.4 billion in conservation, by offering rebates on energy efficient appliances and light bulbs.

Visual support to halt climate change

For its part the WWF says Earth Hour has never been about reducing electricity consumption.

"For Earth Hour, WWF asks people to turn off their lights to visually show support of measures to halt climate change," wrote Philippe Devos, director of communications for the organization in Canada in an email to CBC News.

He says over the years, several hydro authorities have used Earth Hour to promote electricity conservation.

"The electricity data, however, is not a valid measure of Earth Hour participation," he wrote.