Saturday, March 28, 2009

Busted Earth Hour

Update 4/4/09  The graph for today's power demand during the day is shown at the left, with the original graph from Earth Hour Saturday, March 28, shown on the right.  These are taken directly from, so the y-axis scaling is different.  However, the tail of each curve (to the right of each graph) shows the same shape, a rise around 20:00 hours (8 p.m.), and then a gentle decrease through the 9, 10, and 11 p.m. hours.  Thus, there was no difference in California energy usage during Earth Hour and a normal Saturday night.    Earth Hour was a bust. 

Update 4/2/09  Several people want to know how the Earth Hour Saturday night power graph compared to previous Saturday nights.  I took a look at in their data archives, and found that the previous two Saturdays show almost the exact curve: same time of peak, same decrease to midnight.  But the week earlier, March 7, showed a peak one hour earlier, at 7 p.m. then the gentle decline to midnight.  I would guess a popular tv show came on one hour earlier.  

Also, CAISO has separate data for each major utility, PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E.  PG&E is Pacific Gas and Electric in the San Francisco Bay area, SCE is Southern California Edison in the Los Angeles area, and SDG&E is San Diego Gas & Electric in San Diego area.   All three utilities showed remarkably similar demand curves, with no step-changes around Earth Hour.  
(Original Post)
Today, March 28, 2009, a move was underway to show support for the environment by turning off lights worldwide for one hour from 8:30 until 9:30 p.m.  I myself left the house around 5 p.m. to visit friends, have dinner, see a movie, then enjoy a cup of coffee afterward.  But I left the lights on in the house, plus the stereo, and lights on out back and at the front porch.  I returned around 11 p.m. so I did not personally see any lights go out.  I was inside a rather dark movie theatre (by the way, Duplicity is a pretty good flick).  

I did wonder how much effect, if any, Earth Hour 2009 had on  California's power grid, so I downloaded the graph shown to the right.  This is from, the California Independent System Operator.  CAISO is in charge of receiving power from power generating plants, and distributing the power throughout the state grid to the various end users.  

The light gray line is the forecasted power usage, shown in Megawatts.  The red line is the actual power consumed.  Around 1900 hours, 7 p.m., the load was approximately 24,000 MW.  By 8:00, the load increased smoothly to just over 26,000 MW.  Then the load began a steady decrease right on through the night, ending at around 22,000 MW at almost midnight.  

There was no apparent decrease in the power load throughout the state, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.  No step changes, nothing, nada, zip, zilch.  

I am glad to see that nothing happened.   Maybe, just maybe, Californians have some sense after all.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 

Contact Mr. Sowell at his legal website.


Jeanette said...

Glad to see that a record is being kept. Perhaps the World Wildlife Fund, the lights-out sponsor as I understand it, will lose many of its charitable donors. It has lost my extended family's contributions. I wish records like yours could be combined and posted for the world to see.

Kit P said...

Roger, the folks in California are so predictable. You are aware that checking facts is not allowed in California. A few years back your governor was pleading with people to conserve so rolling black outs would not be required. After the heat wave passed, Arnold thank the people for conserving. However, lower demand was not the result of conservation, it was the result of forced outages because California utilities have old equipment that has not been updated for higher loads.

Roger Sowell said...

Ms. Jeanette,

Thank you! I hope you are right about WWF losing more sponsors, as they likely will as the weather turns colder and the seas do not rise. Even the dimmest folks eventually catch on when they are being conned. It just takes a bit longer for some!

I will post a companion item next week based on a non-Earth Hour Saturday. It should be interesting to compare the two graphs.

Roger Sowell said...

Mr. P, I am not sure from where your information derives. The facts are these: California did have a period of insufficient power generating capacity, and the governor did issue a call for conservation. A state-plan was established known as Flex Your Power. It requested people to wait until after 6 p.m. to run washers, dryers, dishwashers, and other household appliances.

Then the state authorized and investors built more generating plants, and we have had no blackouts. There are also voluntary load reduction plans, where a consumer receives a lower power price if he allows his power to be reduced or cut off during a heat wave. The workers go home, so it is not certain how much power is saved. Perhaps they sit in their cars on the freeways until the traffic clears and by then the power crisis is over.

Kit P said...

“Mr. P, I am not sure from where your information derives.”

My information comes from observation and filtering out the BS.

Utilities have an ethical obligation to deliver electrical 24/ regardless whatever pseudo plan the state has.

“we have had no blackouts”

Actually California has many unnecessary blackouts. California has gotten past the unnecessary 'rolling' blackouts caused by inadequate capacity planning. The time to authorize new plants and transmission lines, and substation is before the the power goes off.

If a couple million citizens are without electricity at the same time because of random equipment failures, it is an indication that the utility is inept.

Rolling blackouts did not have to be ordered because of bad management to good performance or conservation.

TheFatBigot said...

What a fun graph, Mr Sowell.

One thing isn't clear to me. We see a grey forecasting line, and a pretty accurate forecast it looks too. But was that forecast made by assuming reduced consumption during Futile Hippy Gesture Hour?

Roger Sowell said...

Mr. FB,

A couple of the finer points about that graph, which you will appreciate.

CAISO prepares a forecast, typically 24 hours ahead, but sometimes there is a revised forecast that is created as the day wears on and conditions warrant. This is quite prudent and indeed necessary, as CAISO is the outfit that orders up additional power before it is needed, and orders generators to stand down when appropriate. The green line depicts this.

The original forecast line is erased and replaced with the revised. Both are shown by gray lines, with slightly different dashing, I think.

The original forecast, and the revision, if any, may be more easily seen before 11:45 p.m. when I downloaded the chart.

I suspect that the gray line captured on my little blog had no revisions as this day was humdrum from a power standpoint.

Also, a highly-placed executive with a major California utility told me they did not give the Hippy Hour a second thought. He is not a client so this violates no ethics rules.

Mr. FB, I have just a bit more to tell you on this subject, but it is not appropriate for these very public blog comments. If you would be so kind as to drop me a note at my email address, I will tell you in private by return email.

my office email is

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