River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Letter to the Editor

August 2007

Cliff offers an alternative view of Global Warming...

Dear Ray,

Now that our summer seems to be over, marked by the spectators at Wimbledon seen muffled up to their ears with overcoats and scarves (sorry, pashminas) perhaps I may be permitted to offer a comment on the global warming debate and in particular on saving energy. I think we could cut our consumption of domestic lighting energy at a stroke, of the clock.

I wake up each morning at about 6.oo am, look at the clock, and mutter to myself that it is quite inconsiderate of the sun to come streaming into the window at such an ungodly hour. Then I stop and think that just at that very instant, my son is on his way to catch his train to work, which is not unusual, particularly for those people living in France, where the time is just after 7.00 am. This might give me a smile of smug satisfaction, but then he leaves work an hour earlier, and he goes to bed an hour earlier, switching all his lights off an hour earlier. His mornings are a little darker, but more significantly his evenings are lighter. My memory not does serve me so well as to remember why we, in this small offshore island chose to be different from the rest of Europe residing at a similar longitude. I can only conceive that it is due to some misguided concession to Scotland, whose children might have to travel to school in the dark in deepest winter. A problem which the Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Polish children seem to have come to grips with.

I wonder if I can offer a little calculation.

Let us assume that there are 20 million households in the UK all watching television (100 watts) with two 100 watt lights in their houses/apartments. They all retire to bed after dark and turn off all this power consumption. If they all were to switch off 1 hour earlier each night, during the summer months, each household would save:

0.3 kilowatt hours of energy per day for 180 days

or 180 x 0.3 kwh per year costing approximately £4.50 at current electricity prices.

The annual saving in consumption, nationwide, would be of the order of £90m.

You can argue with the detail of the estimation but I think you see my drift. The only price to pay is the adjustment of our clocks to maximise the use of daylight hours.

I have another little tale to tell. A lady we know quite well in her mid fifties came to live in Norfolk a few years ago to be closer to her brother who lives in East Dereham. She was borne and bred in Greater Manchester and lived all her adult life there. When she came to live near East Dereham, she had the unnerving experience of having to drive at night with her headlamps on full beam. I was amazed to realise that she had never needed to use them in this mode as virtually everywhere she needed to drive in Great Manchester was illuminated after dark. Not just suburban streets, but motorways, major roads, shopping areas and industrial estates, are all illuminated; and at what a cost. I would imagine that an astronaut looking down on not just Greater Manchester but all the major cities of the world would see each one sparkling like a rapper's bling out from a stygian dark ocean.

This single comment from this lady made me really stop and think about the wisdom of this solution to the problem of trying to make our roads safer. The xenon headlamps on my Vauxhall are somewhat better than those on my first Morris Minor and therefore do inter-city motorways really need to be illuminated all through the midnight hours in this 21st century? I wonder.

I have no idea how much the Highways Authority pays for electricity but a conservative estimate for the energy saved on just motorways if the lights were switched off for just one hour per night might be the order of 2000megawatt hours which is an awful lot of energy.

With best wishes for a cooler climate!

Cliff Gardner

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