Alberta cities dial down wattage

Albertans dialed down their lust for wattage during Earth Hour celebrations on Saturday.

Downtown buildings go mostly dark to celebrate Earth Hour but lights stay on at the Saddledome

Downtown buildings go mostly dark to celebrate Earth Hour but lights stay on at the Saddledome

Albertans dialed down their lust for wattage during Earth Hour celebrations on Saturday.

But the drop was marginal in Calgary and Edmonton homes and businesses didn’t perform as well as they did last year.

Officials at Enmax in Calgary say the demand for electricity fell in Calgary by 0.5 per cent.

Supporters of the campaign to raise awareness about energy consumption were hoping for a better showing than in 2008, when demand for power shot up by over three per cent during the hour.

In Edmonton, Epcor says demand dropped by about three per cent.

That was a little off the mark compared to last year, when the demand for electricity dropped by over five per cent.

Grand gestures snuffed the lights at landmarks across Canada for Earth Hour this weekend but the results were dimmer than before in two of the country’s largest provinces.

The drop in electricity usage in British Columbia and Ontario during the hour-long event was less than in the two previous years’ Earth Hour, provincial utilities said Sunday.

But the village of Burns Lake, B.C., population 2,800, stands out from most other communities with a remarkable seven-per-cent drop in power usage between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Across British Columbia, BC Hydro said the electricity load dropped by a more modest 1.04 per cent during the hour — amounting to 64.6 megawatt hours of electricity.

That’s less than the 1.1 per cent reduction in 2009 and two-per-cent reduction in 2008 in British Columbia.

In B.C., the lights were dimmed at Vancouver’s giant Science World globe and the sails atop Canada Place, while the legislature went dark for one full hour in Victoria.

Ontario saw a four-per-cent drop in electricity demand during Earth Hour, the province’s electricity system operator said.

The 560-megawatt decline — enough to power a city the size of Brampton, Ont. — is less than the six per cent drop seen in 2009 and five per cent in 2008.

Terry Young, of the Independent Electricity System Operator in Ontario, said Earth Hour is more about an awareness of the need for conservation than making a major impact on electricity demand.

“People were turning off their lights and stopped using as much electricity, and we could notice that. Any time we can notice something like that on a provincial scale then it does have some sort of an impact.”

The weaker numbers more likely reflect the weather than a waning interest, Young said.

The temperatures in Ontario were much cooler this year than during Earth Hour last year, so even though lights were shut off, heaters were running, he said.

BC Hydro spokeswoman Simi Heer said participation in Earth Hour appeared to remain steady and awareness seems to be up.

Heer said more than 80 B.C. communities said they were participating, but she didn’t know why the overall reduction had dropped.

“I think that’s a question people can ask of themselves, ask your neighbours, ask your friends, ’What did you do for Earth Hour and did you participate?”’ she said.

“Now it’s up to individual British Columbians to take action and to actually reduce their energy consumption.”

BC Hydro’s Power Smart program has seen a 4,000 gigawatt hours reduction in power since last year, Heer noted.

Lights went out during Earth Hour at the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge in Halifax, the CN Tower in Toronto, the Parliament buildings in Ottawa and many other Canadian landmarks.

Resident Ron Zayac, 40, and his wife Tammy were gung-ho to participate in the challenge for a second year running — even if it happened after their two young children were put to bed.

They walked around their home, turned out the lights, lit a few candles and listened to the blustery wind outside while chatting and taking a peek at several neighbours’ homes that also went dark.

“People in small communities, especially in the North, I think are pretty in tune with the environment and the changing climate and all of those types of things,” Zayac said. “From our perspective, when you have something like Earth Hour it makes a lot of sense to try and participate yourself.”

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said he spent Earth Hour at home, playing poker with his son Connor and wife Terri. “I wiped up,” he said.

“We shut everything down,” McGuinty said. “We put on some candles and we played cards. So it’s kind of old-fashioned, it’s kind of fun. This is what they used to do, I guess.”

The World Wildlife Fund, which started Earth Hour in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, said more than 300 Canadian cities and municipalities had pledged to take part.

– With files from Allison Jones and Maria Babbage.