Earth Hour Energy Use May Outweigh Savings


People blogging about Saturday’s Earth Hour, and watching it on television, may use more power than is saved by switching lights off for an hour – but it’s a symbol, say organisers

This Saturday Earth Hour will encourage people round the world to  turn off unecessary lights. But the event, run by environmental group WWF, comes with a media and promotional cost, as WWF encourages media activity, and individual blogging and tweeting about it. 

Earth Hour is a symbolic gesture to raise consciousness and put pressure on world leaders to act on the environment, not about the amount of energy saved a  WWF spokesperson said to eWEEK Europe UK.

“It is not about how much energy is saved, it is meant to be a symbolic gesture to global leaders about climate change,” the spokesperson said.  As such, social media are being used as an effective campaigning tool. 

Earth Hour is scheduled to take place from 8.30 to 9.30pm on Saturday 28 March. WWF and other environmental groups are urging businesses and households around the world to switch off their lights for the one hour period – according to local time.

The events organisers are also urging potentially millions of participants to post messages and photos on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites.

“Make your vote count by recording your participation in Earth Hour and posting it to the web. You can take a photo on the night and add it to Earth Hour’s flickr group, make a video of your event and add it to our YouTube group, write a live blog post during the event tag it earthhour or voteearth, and update your Twitter status on the night and tag it #earthhour or #voteearth,” the organisers stated on the event’ website.

However, the energy used by online applications – traced directly to the large datacentres used to support them – have attracted criticism from environmental groups and scientists. A recent study from the US Environmental Protection Agency claimed that data centres use 1.5 percent of all electricity consumption in the United States, which equated to 61 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) and $4.5 billion. The amount of energy used by datacentres was roughly equal to the energy required to keep all the televisions running in the US, according to the EPA.

Google has also been criticised for the energy used to conduct searches online. A Harvard University physicist recently told the Times newspaper that executing two Google searches could generate almost the same amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide) as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea.

Google has refuted the claims and says it is striving to be the environmentally conscious in all aspects of its business.