Clean Energy Won't Help Us Get Rid of Annoying Daylight Saving Time

What energy savings?


Daylight saving time is ridiculous. Sure, it’s great that one day in the fall — November 5 this year — we’ll get an extra hour of sleep, but we pay for it dearly in the spring when we wake up at 11 a.m. on Sunday, only to discover it’s actually noon.

Proponents claim that daylight saving time helps save energy by shifting business hours to the times of day that have more sunlight, but this notion is woefully outdated. With smartphones, server facilities, and video games (just to name a few of the hundreds of ways we use electricity), we already use so much energy at all times of the day — not to mention the fact that offices use their lights all day anyway — the savings are pretty much irrelevant.

As Inverse previously reported, the idea of daylight saving time began in the 18th century when Benjamin Franklin (surprise surprise) proposed it as a way Parisians could save money on candles. As the seasons change, the daylight hours shift, meaning that getting up earlier and ending work earlier can help you make better use of natural light — and save a few inches of candles. But guess what, Ben? We don’t use candles anymore.

Beyond the simple fact that we use electricity now, the conservation promised by daylight saving time doesn’t actually happen. As Inverse has reported, a 2008 U.S. Department of Energy report showed that extending daylight saving time by a month — meaning that Americans sprung forward two weeks earlier and fell back two weeks later — yielded a whopping 0.03 percent energy saving.

Daylight Saving Time was first proposed as a way to save candles. But we don't light our homes with candles anymore, so why do we still have Daylight Saving Time?

Flickr / Maria Keays

These meager electricity savings hardly justify the hazards created by daylight saving time. A 2001 study tracked fatal car accidents after the time change for 21 years and found that there was a significant increase in accidents both following the spring shift — losing an hour of sleep — and following the fall shift when we gain an hour. While it makes sense that people are more likely to get into accidents after less sleep in the spring, it may seem unexpected that the fall change also affects accident rates. The researchers explained that people might overcompensate over the weekend, thinking that they don’t need as much sleep because they’re gaining an hour. Both ways it messes us up.

Furthermore, since not all countries around the world or even territories in the U.S. observe daylight saving time the same way, the shift creates confusion.

There’s also a growing argument that clean, renewable energy like solar could also help make daylight saving time irrelevant since we wouldn’t have to worry about saving anymore, per se. This is not totally misguided because even though that 0.03 percent energy saving isn’t very large, it’s not totally insignificant either.

In 2008, 0.03 percent of the U.S. energy consumption was 1.3 terawatt hours, which is about four percent of Scotland’s entire electrical energy consumption each year. So while it’s not a huge amount, every bit helps.

While clean energy could transform 1.3 terawatt hours amount of energy even into even less of a big deal, daylight saving has managed to stick around past all the evidence against its purpose up until now. Will one more innovation make a difference?

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