Daylight Savings - A drop in the Oil Drum?

[Editor's Note: See Peakguy interviewed by local TV station NY1. I can't believe that they edited out the part where I show them the Hubbert Curve T-Shirt! /joking]

The Energy Bill passed into law last year extended daylight Saving hours by three weeks starting with the spring of 2007 as a way to cheaply save some energy, without having to make much sacrifice.

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is not a new concept. In 1784, when Benjamin Franklin was Minister to France, an idea occurred to him: in that part of the year when the sun rises while most people are still asleep, clocks could be reset to allow an extra hour of daylight during waking hours.  The rationale behind this is that you basically shift an hour of daylight from the morning when most people are still asleep (lights out), to the evening when people are in their homes and require light. He calculated that the French could save one million francs per day on candles. This same logic was applied in both world wars in Europe and the US and later during the oil embargos of the 1970s. More historical background here.

But how big is this impact? Is DST really as meaningful now as it was in the past?

The logic seems simple enough and according to studies in the 1970s and a more recent one from the California energy crisis in 2001, Daylight Savings does save a little electrical energy demand. Overall it is estimated that it reduces electrical demand by a marginal amount (~1%) or as some have argued the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil a day for time it is extended. Nevermind that only a tiny fraction of electricity generation comes from burning oil and that we consume over 20 million barrels of oil a day, mostly on transportation fuels.

The real benefit may be in smoothing out periods of peak demand in the early evening when industrial, commerical and residential are all demanding electricity from the grid. This might save some natural gas, which is also running short of demand.

Here is an example from a study done in Mexico during the 1990s when they were considering how to control peak demand:

Note that the chart begins at 10,000 MW and therefore the green area is not as big as it appears. Another study in California concluded that peak demand would drop by about 3.5%, but overall daily demand would only reduce by 1%.

Then they looked at what a two hour DST vs. one hour vs. regular Standard Time would do to overall daily energy demand:

Not much change here in overall peak demand in August, but some nice gains in the Spring and Fall.

What are the costs if any of doing DST? According to a National Geographic article last year, they pointed out a few issues, including this:

The airline industry is adamantly against a change of the daylight saving calendar, which officials say will severely affect scheduling.

"There will be disruption all over the place. If [daylight saving time] is extended [by] four weeks, we'll end up with some really major difficulties," Anthony Concil said. Concil is spokesperson for the International Air Transport Association, which represents 265 airlines that account for 94 percent of all international scheduled air traffic. "When Europe and the U.S. are on different times, connections become less convenient. Right now there is one week of discord between the U.S. and Europe so it's sort of at a manageable level," Concil said.

So what do our readers think? Does DST do much for reducing energy demand in the modern era of air conditioners and all the convenience appliances that use up electricity?

I think there are even more practical ideas for individuals to save on their electrical bills:

  1. Turn off lights, computers and other appliances when they are not home
  2. Replace old incandescent bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs) that are 75% more efficient.
  3. Clean the filter on their air conditioner, set it to a timer/thermostat - or better yet cool their homes with fans instead.
  4. Buying new Energy Star appliances
  5. Spend more time outside the house in a park instead of inside.
More here

I have been able to reduce my electrical demand from ~8 kwh/day to ~3 kwh/day through these simple techniques. It also helps living in a small (less than 500 sqft) Manhattan apartment.

Obviously 1% total savings is not that much. The levelling effect of 3.5% is much more significant and deserving attention IMO. But in essence we can achieve the same with building several more pumped storage stations (which would also help with wind power).

It is all economics - which costs less. I have not seen a study indicating significant economic costs from DST, so in this context it is probably worthed to stay. Every little thing helps.

Putting your suggestions in contrast with DST is raising again the problem with individual conservation - how to rely on it? How can you rely in demand reduction caused by the voluntary efforts of consumers? You can stimulate some measures but the results will be fuzzy - and probably much less effective than you hope for. Therefore utilities/government prefer centralised measures that do not require efforts from the consumers and finally turn have much lower costs.

The most effective alternative to this of course is raising prices which can make the people do the necessary efforts anyway. But this has also the drawback of hitting heavily the lower income people and generaly will be avoided.

Agreed that the leveling off of peak demand is more impactful as you would want to have as constant a demand as possible (that way you don't need to have the extra NG plants). I'm not saying we shouldn't extend DST, but just pointing out that it's not a big deal. But if an individual wants to save electricity, there are much higher savings extracted from CFLs and other basic conservation efforts. Prices are going up in any case and the lower income folks will need tips like this to save on their money.
I agree it is not big deal. It just attracts a lot of attention, because everyone has to follow it. On the positive side this increases the energy awareness of the people, who are rather spoiled in their majority IMO.

Your notes makes me think that a very useful and easy to implement one-time social program would be to give free CFLs to all lower income families - perhaps with the food stamps or such... I suspect a lot of people simply don't know what amount of savings can be achieved this way.

Any savings helps, but 1% isn't much. At least it doesn't cost anything to impliment. One reason for the meager savings is that people get up earlier than in the past. So, they get up at very-late night morning times. Result? People have to cut on lights, cancelling out savings in the evening.

Giving out CF light bulbs with WIC stamps would do a lot more to cut electrical use. Why poor people don't buy them is the price ($10 v. $1 for 4) and forget to amortise the savings from power bills. Poor people live too "in the moment" to amortise the savings as they live cheque to cheque. I started using CF lighting when I used a computer UPS for a whole studio apartment. (a 500 watter and car batteries) I lived in a spot with frequent nuisance blackouts. That is a GREAT way to gain energy awareness!

A great way to save money for the poor would be to lose weight. You save on food, healthcare costs, and A/C as you can tolerate warmer temperatures. The first and last reason got me to cut food consumption to lose weight! A health problem got me started though, and I ran with the idea. To lose weight and keep it off, what you want to do is gradually change your eating habits to go on a permanent diet. THAT is the "lifestyle change" spinmeisters like to use to obfuscate the reality. And cutting food use cuts oil use. If you are prone to obesity, you can save lots of energy by watching your weight.

The reason for DST this time is that it gets great ERoMI as it's cost-free to the government. The CF giveaway would be good for ERoMI on the part of the government, but don't hold your breath. The Bush Regime doesn't want to help the poor. The Bush Regime would rather go with dieting as it makes life harder on the poor.

Some possible good news. With that additive in gasoline that pollutes groundwater being phased out, making a bigger market for ethanol. Becuse of that, the price of sugar will soar like a jet plane on steroids. Candymakers may have to switch to calorie-free sweeteners! Same with food canners, and so on. In Chicago, the gas prices started this driving season's climb into the stratosphere. 15 cents in one week...

The really low income people know how to save more.  Its those that have a bit extra to spend that waste money and time on things that they shouldn't.
> Obviously 1% total savings is not that much...

Well, a rough doubling of gasoline prices reduced US gasoline use by 0.05% 2005 vs. 2004.  1% is 20 times THAT "savings", with MUCH lower macroeconomic & social effects !


Yesterday I went to the gas station. I do it once per week for my small car - $19. Then I went to the pharmacy and bought a nasal spray and some pain relief medication - $50.

Energy prices in US are so ridiculously low that whether it is $1 or 2$ per gallon people pay and don't think about it that much. I don't expect this to change below $4-$5 a gallon, there will be some shift to smaller cars etc., but a significant change in behaviour will start only after we start feeling a true pain in our pockets.

Oh, I'm not saying it shouldn't be done, it's just not doing as much as the gov't would have you believe. And the 1% was just in electrical demand, not overall oil usage. I'm not as worried yet about electrical supply inelasticity as I am about transportation fuels.
I don't use candles...

From the California study:

We supposed that the way people and buildings respond to light and weather conditions at 5 p.m., for example, comes from it being 5 p.m. (as people are beginning to leave work), and that there may be a different response at 6 p.m.  This supposition holds for each hour of the day.  At the same time, the modeling approach makes use of the fact that the estimation errors are highly correlated over the day.  We discuss specific details of the model’s structure and estimation in Appendix A.

You can call it midnite, if you want, but it's the outside temperature that drives the climate control, not the clock.  In Texas (where I live) that is the largest part of energy usage, not lights and computers and phones.

And if you turn the air off at 7:00 PM just because everyone goes home, you'll have to turn it back on at 3:00 AM and have it work twice as hard to cool the building enough before workers start arriving at 6:00.  Incurring, naturally, a peak electric charge from the utility company when you do it.

Interesting.  To really get a feel for energy savings (or not), let's skip DSL one year and see if it costs any more.  My thought is it won't make much of a difference, but that some regions will benefit more than others.

ditto, what you have said for Phoenix Arizona and air conditioning needed to keep things cool.

Most of Arizona doesn't go on daylight savings time, think about it. Does Phoenix Arizona need another hour of daylight in the summer when the temps are at least 95 and probably 110?


When I lived in Switzerland (most expensive electricity in the world apparently), they had an interesting scheme to reduce power consumption without negatively affecting poorer people. If a household used significantly less electricity than the average, you got a bonus at the end of the year for being a green user. I put in an energy efficient, small refrigerator, and used "the big fridge" outside in winter. At the end of the year I got a bonus from the power company. The bonus paid about a quarter of my electricity for the year. Its interesting to note that Swiss elecricity is close to carbon neutral, being 60% hydro and 40% nuclear.
It's a great time to be a computer consultant.  Every computer in the US and Canada now has to have its timezone rules updated.
Fiddling with Daylight Savings Time: what an inspiring idea!

I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of dollars the federal government paid some consultant to come up with this little gem.

With Great Ideas like this, I don't think we need to worry about Peak Oil anymore.  Geez, why didn't I think of this one?

Along the same lines, how about a law that will define a barrel of oil to be 65 gallons?  We'd then have to import many fewer barrels.  Plus, the barrels we do import will go a lot farther!
from video:  So that's how you say your last name...  heh heh.  Good stuff!
Yeah, a bit of a mouthful.
I don't have as much time to post and read as I would like to. But I move in less than 2 months and Want the House to be as spotless as possible.  7 to 10 cats can trash a house in placse you don't go as often.  As well as having had to storemy first wive's junk by legal decree for the last 5 years.  But my post is thus.

I don't care what time it is.   I only use my clock to tell me what is going on in SOMEONE else's life.   I wake and no matter the time I do things,  If it is light out I also do somethimgs outside.  If it is dark out I do things that I can do in the dark, Like look at stars and write stories in my head, or with a battery driven hand held mini tape recorded for when I have been up to long and figure I will forget things.   IT never matters to me what time they rest of the world thinks it is unless I am dealing with them.

I have Operated this way since Forever.  I was up I was active,  I was asleep I was not.  If I had school then I had school and Kept track of the time on my watch.  When I came home from school both grade and up to college,  I did what I needed to do with light or without light.

In my own home if it is dark outside in is primarily dark in my house.  Sure some of the black dumber cats get stepped on a bit more.  But why do I need lights?  I have lights in the Computer room, I leave they go off, My computer is on 24 hours a day for as long as windows does not get bogged down and then I reboot.  Reboot time is to slow, I waste to much time waiting for.   I write at the oddest times and Just turn the screen back on and start typing and when I am done save and turn the screen off, leave the room and out the lights.

All my lights are compact low wattage bulbs.  Except the front and back outside lights.  I never have them on unless Quests need them.  I hardly ever use a light out of doors even at night,  I have hiked at night using start light or moonlight. I have very good night vision mostly through use.  

I got up what the clock said was 4 am this morning.  Yesterday it was 3 am,  Who knows what it will be tomorrow, I usually don't care except for days that I have to interact with others, or have appointments and On Sundays with Church.  I repect my nieghbors by not doing loud things outside before they start stirring, usaually 5:30am on,  And at night from about 10 pm on till morning.

My neighbors know I walk everywhere, unless I am trash harvesting.  6 Tires, One prefectly good wheel chair, 2 vans loads of wood for friend who collects all her own fire wood from city wide tree trimming. If she had a computer she'd be posting and yelling at the world and their waste.

So I don't care what the clock says and I have never muched cared,  I wear a watch because I still Have to interact with others and Time things that I am doing,  Cooking, etc etc.

My e.mail is and that will not change, As I moving I will not post so much for awhile,  I would just walk there, but I need all my tools too,  Restoring a house fromt he ground up and I have Carte Blanc On landscaping it, as It will likely be our one and Only home. It being totally debt free. Any good hints on things I can do to survive please let me Know, Even if I know them we can discuss methods.  Thank you all for letting me ramble a bit off topic,   Dan ur AkA  Charles E. Owens Jr.

A good, albeit expensive, means of reducing usage is to use TOU (time of use) electrical metering.  We've had a TOU meter for a long time, it may be close to 20 years.  We have Pacific Gas & Electric and their peak hours are from noon to 6 PM (other companies use different times).  Off peak it's about 10 cents a kW while on peak is about 33 cents in the summer.  Further, there is an increasing scale of costs as you pass certain usage levels.

We make out quite well since I switch to our PV system about 9-10AM and often stay on it until 7-8PM at night.  This is also the time when I turn on the hot water heater (electric) so it is done off the grid.

As a sometimes bicycle commuter who works the usual day "business hours" I'm looking forward to having reliable daylight for the trip home when DST starts.  I keep thinking this should save a lot of car fuel as people shift from car to bike with the daylight, but there probably aren't enough cyclists to matter.
I love it in the summer time when it gets dark at 10pm.  I hate it when it gets dark at ~5pm in the winter time.
Maybe we should work shorter days in the winter. :-)
  The extension of daylight time will kick in next year, 2007.  It will be exactly 20 years since the last extension was enacted, in 1987.   Interestingly, the same co-sponser of the legislation, Rep. Markey (D) from Massachusettts was responsible for BOTH the 1986 law and 2005 law.  
  It should be pointed out that a new, updated study is being conducted on how much energy will be saved.  The 1974-75 study, in which daylight time was observed from Jan. 6-Oct.27, 1974 and Feb. 23-Oct. 26 1975...estimated that
100,000 barrels of oil per day were saved.   I believe the focus was the period
that DST was observed during the winter months, January-March.  But this was an estimate, and no direct measurement could be arrived at.  
  Some critics of the study claim that no real savings could be measured.  Dark
mornings meant electricity use was shifted to that time of day.  And this was at a time when not as many people were up as early.   With greater population today and earlier wake up times, dark mornings mean more lights, appliances, and yes, the television is on.  That's why the new study will attempt to measure energy usage.  And if it is found that it doesn't make a real difference, the law will revert back to pre 2007 dates.
  It should also be pointed out that this isn't all about saving of energy.  In 1985-86, when hearings were turned out that retail business had an interest in extending DST by 3 weeks in the spring to help boost sales.  The candy lobby wanted DST to be extended by an extra week so that Halloween would fall within it, thus encouraging trick or treaters to stay out longer.  Some parents cited "safety" issues.  The candy lobby lost out in 1986, but this time won in 2005...with the help of Rep. Markey.
  Meanwhile, the airline industry is up in arms over this.   Their concerns were heard, but ultimately ignored.  Europe starts DST the last Sunday in March.  And they ended originally the last Sunday in September.   Eventually they extended DST to end the last Sunday in October.   What was a one week inconvenience has now turned into a three week problem for airlines.  To accomodate them, the law was delayed by one year so that the airlines could figure out a fix for this.  Perhaps the European Union would follow the US lead and change their times?  Or Canada will?
  And for those localities on the western side of the time Michigan, Ohio, Indiana..they perhaps can adjust school schedules to start later in the morning...since sunrise by early November will be later than it is
in early 8am sunrises.    In some places, in western Michigan.  
   Let's wait and see how long the new experiment will last when the new times go into effect next year.  If the energy savings aren't there, its a good bet that the business and candy lobby will lose this one, and the airlines wil win back the better times they want.  
   Certainly the golf and recreation crowd will bask in the extra spring dayight.  That is, if the weather will cooperate...something that is difficult to achieve in this part of the world.