Earth Hour is Pointless in Quebec

According to Wikipedia:

Earth Hour is an international event that asks households and businesses to turn off their lights and non-essential electrical appliances for one hour on the evening of 29 March at 8PM local time to promote electricity conservation and thus lower carbon emissions.

I’m all for lowering carbon emissions. But if you live in Quebec, turning off your lights will have no effect on carbon emissions. The reason is simple; virtually all of the electricity consumed in Quebec is derived from hydroelectric power stations. Hydroelectric power stations do not create carbon emissions!

In most of the world, electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels. Generating stations burn coal, oil, natural gas, and other fuels in order to drive the turbines that generate the electricity. In Quebec, it’s all done by gravity – gravity forcing water through turbines built into dams way up north in James Bay. (Hold that thought on the damage caused by large scale hydro damming; I’ll get to that later.)

Several months ago, I heard a debate on CBC radio between representatives of the Sierra Club of Canada and Hydro Quebec. It was revealed that damming causes some carbon emissions due to the flooding, and as the vegetation in the flooded grounds rots under water, it releases CO2. There are many factors that affect how much CO2 is released, including vegetation type and the temperature of the water. In tropical areas like the Amazon, the amount of CO2 created can equal about 10% of what would be generated by burning fossil fuels instead. Put another way, even in the Amazon, hydro power creates 90% fewer carbon emissions than burning fossil fuels.

Shoot north to James Bay and that figures is reduced to between 1- and 3%. So even in the worst case scenario, Hydro Quebec electricity generation creates 97% fewer emissions than the electricity generated by fuel burning methods.

Here’s the kicker; it was the Sierra Club guy who said all that.

That said, I will firmly state that even in Quebec, it is important to conserve electricity. There are at least two reasons why:

  1. By using less electricity in Quebec, we reduce the need to build more dams in Northern Quebec. On the matter of carbon emissions, Hydro Quebec is an absolute darling, but the building of dams and the re-routing of rivers causes other forms of environmental damage as well as political and social problems due to the displacement of people, and so on. But Earth Hour is all about emissions, and when it comes to Quebec, turning off your lights does not lower emissions because there are virtually no emissions in the first place.
  2. By using less electricity in Quebec, we will have more available to sell to places like Vermont, Ontario, New Hampshire, etc., thereby helping them reduce their dependence on fossil fuel burning methods.

You might argue that we should go along with Earth Hour for the sake of solidarity with people in places where it will make a difference, or that we should do it for the sake of awareness.

Awareness? That’s why I’m writing this blog post; for awareness. To make people aware of what electricity conservation in Quebec is really about, and to make people aware of the fact that if you want to reduce carbon emissions in Quebec you should focus your efforts elsewhere.

For example, in the summer, most of my neighbours use gas powered lawn mowers every week to trim their lawns. I’ll bet a lot of them feel pretty good about having changed the light bulbs in their houses to those low energy bulbs. They probably think that by doing so it offsets their lawn mowing.

Not so! Since Quebec electricity creates virtually no emissions, those low energy bulbs have no effect on emissions. Furthermore, one session with that lawnmower creates more emissions than does the electricity consumption of my entire house over the course of a year!

You know that mantra, “Think Globally; Act Locally?” Acting locally should involve understanding your local environment, and how every place in the world is unique and has unique environmental conditions and needs. While we all should conserve water, for example, it’s far less of a problem in Canada than it is in say, California, or New Mexico, or the Greek island of Hydra, which ironically has no working potable water source, requiring it all to be shipped in.

Similarly, the use of solar panels is a great idea in Texas or Morocco, but isn’t really very useful in Yellowknife or Oslo. How about electric cars? In the U.S. they are a red herring, as the electricity they use comes primarily from coal and oil burning power stations, but electric cars in Quebec would literally, in every sense, be emission-free.

You want awareness? How about starting with awareness of what the pressing needs are where you live, instead of just jumping on the bandwagon and going along with whatever you see in the media.

Follow-up: not fully in sync with today’s discussion, but neither is it entirely out of place. Here’s yesterday’s Aislin cartoon from the Montreal Gazette:

41 thoughts on “Earth Hour is Pointless in Quebec

  1. Nice article…but dont forget that the vast majority of that hydro power comes from Newfoundland hydroelectric generating stations, sold to Quebec for pennies. Quebec then turns around and sells it off for a profit….no wonder why Quebec does not want to turn out the lights….it means less profit.

  2. Light pollution, too.

    Anyway, it isn’t that big a deal. It’s just an hour, Grumpy McGrumperton.

  3. Yeah, but Earth Hour is all about EMISSIONS, and nothing that either of you say has anything to do with emissions!

    And here’s the funniest thing; how many Quebeckers tomorrow will turn off the lights and then light up a bunch of candles, and spark up the wood-burning fireplace, to compensate? I’ll bet if you could actually gather data on it, you’d find that (at least in Quebec, where it’s cold and dark at 8:00 PM on March 26) the people observing Earth Hour are actually spitting out MORE greenhouse gasses than those who are not.

  4. I’m saying it doesn’t really matter that much. Let the people have their fun. Maybe I’ll be able to see stars for once in my life.

  5. Hey, got nuts. I’m not saying “don’t observe Earth Hour.” I’m just saying “Don’t think that observing Earth Hour will cut any emissions (if you live in Quebec).”

    I just want people to be informed.

  6. People just don’t understand how generating electricity works.

    Electricity is made (either in coal, oil or gas fired plants or in hydro powered turbines) and put onto the grid. It doesn’t matter if anybody down the line uses it or not; it’s made, the oil/gas/coal/gravity is used and it can’t be stored.
    If the demand is lower than the production energy companies can shut down one or more power plants to lower the production. The same as the demand goes up. Power companies use elaborate formulas based on weather, time of day and historical data to predict the demand for any given time. Because if they make too much electricity, it’ll be wasted. They always make a bit more than the predicted demand of course, to prevent brown-outs.

    Fluctuations in demand that just last an hour don’t mean an electricity plant is shut down. That takes more time.

    Energy savings need to be structural in order to have effect on the carbon emissions.

    Besides, residential use of electrical power is just a fraction of industrial use. But it is a symbolic gesture and people get the feeling that they make a difference. The earth in the meantime? It doesn’t give a fuck; even when all human life gets eradicated it will still be there. Until it’s swallowed up by the supernova of the sun in a couple of billion years.

  7. If only to learn you don’t need to turn lights on at home unless you are in the room you are using. The more we use electricity – and one can’t deny power consumption is on the rise – the more we will need sources of energy and eventually we will run out of space for hydro damns and we – to save a buck – will turn to cheap energy, that you can count on…so why not turn the lights off.

  8. And also I wonder if everyone in Quebec turn the lights off for an hour, how that would affect Transenergie’s whinning about transport prices and if that would register in no longer hiking our energy bill ;) Let’s hit HYDRO in the balls.

  9. Hey, I’m all for turning the lights off. But do it systematically, as a matter of course, on a daily basis. Don’t just do it for an hour once a year and then pat yourself on the back.

    The three “green Rs” are Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, in that order. The key to having a lower environmental footprint is to REDUCE first. Use less stuff. All the time.

    And if you live in Quebec and want to reduce your environmental footprint, then turning off the lights is way down on the priority list. Start with driving less. Burn less wood (or none at all) in your fireplaces. Those are both pretty easy for most city folk since most people I know who live in the city don’t have cars or fireplaces. But I’m sure there are other things you can reduce your consumption of, including electricity.

  10. Blork, the premise of EarthHour isn’t as stated in the Wiki quote you hightlighted, it actually began with this simple question:

    – How can we inspire people to take action on climate change?

    The answer: Ask the people of Sydney to turn off their lights for one hour.

    The ‘Goal’ wasn’t about emission reductions, it was, as you also note in your post, about raising awareness on the effects of global climate change. While some people will surely flick the switch off for an hour (while watching the Habs no doubt) and pat themselves on the back, I know of many others who will go further. Gathering their peers for a night of acoustic tunes and a good ol’ potluck meal while discussing and not just Googling local environmental concerns.

    While there seems to be a LOT of bandwagon jumping, I’ve also noticed that this event has inspired a massive amount of discussion about global warming. We can’t let this topic drop off our radar and if it takes a symbolic event like tonights to keep the ping alive, then I’m all for it.

  11. Bryan, I hope you’re right that it really does raise awareness. But that’s also why I made this post. My intention isn’t to put down efforts to conserve resources and to reduce pollution; my intention is to raise awareness that AWARENESS is key, and not just jumping on bandwagons and doing the easy things.

  12. But even the bandwagon folks are helping to raise awareness.

  13. True, but are you familiar with the expression “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing?”

    I don’t think there’s any lack of awareness about global warming and problems with greenhouse gasses. Being aware that people are turning their lights out for an hour is fine, but it doesn’t mean much. Outside of Quebec it means more, because it links the consumption of electricity with the production of greenhouse gasses, and that’s a good thing.

    But inside Quebec, it’s a false awareness. That’s my point.

  14. What I love is when downtown Montreal is shutdown to cars for the day… you can smell the difference in the air. If that doesn’t raise awareness I don’t know what could.

  15. Whe downtown Montreal is car-free it is only seen (and smelled) by people who are there. Those aren’t the ones that got downtown in their car, they are already using other means of transport, so the effect is minimal.

  16. Reality Check Please.

    Is everyone a fucking cynic? Y’all deserve the air you breathe. Nothing is ever good enough. No step is ever good enough. Nothing works, no idea is good. Lets just all forget it about it then? Big picture anyone? Y’all waiting for some magic wonder pill that will fix everything? Seriously? I read a lot of criticism but not a lot of ideas or suggestions.

    Last I checked there are 50k ppl that go through PVM each day alone. No to mention all the traffic that goes on Boul Rene Levesque. There’s a shitload of people downtown that are impacted by the traffic blackout. And I don’t know what part of downtown you work out of but the prices of a parking spot is directly relative to the demand and the prices are insane. I’ve seen parkings for 800$ a month at the 10th sublevel in certain buildings. So a LOT of people are driving downtown.

    Then stations like RDI or MeteoMedia are on the scene reporting from the area all day.

    Don’t forget to leave a tip.

  17. As a side dose of reality, I wonder how many extra unlit homes will be broken into tonight when the people head off into the night to admire the starry sky (still cloudless as I type this) with the light pollution meter set to ‘mild annoyance’? I’ll be checking out the scene from the Mountain lookout, personally can’t wait for that STUPID revolving light on PVM to shut down. Praying they can’t get it started again.

  18. Hey, I love that light! Oddly enough, it’s the light that gives the least amount of light pollution because its beam is horizontal. If it went up it would be polluting, and if it went down it would shine in your eyes, but it goes horizontal, so it’s not a problem.

    In my first few years in montreal, before I really got my bearings, there were a number of times when I’d come out of a Metro station and not know which way was which (e.g., way up on the orange line or whatever). But locating that beam helped me figure it out. It’s also great to see that light when you’re flying into Montreal at night; to see it from above.

    I particularly like how the beam shows up on foggy and rainy nights, like this. It’s a great landmark, way better than that cross on the mountain.

    Regarding No Car Day, I think I know where Mare is coming from. It’s fun to do it once per year, but ultimately it means nothing. The trick is to make it permanent.

  19. I’ve seen parkings for 800$ a month at the 10th sublevel in certain buildings. So a LOT of people are driving downtown.

    Yes, there are. A lot of them work for companies that provide free parking. Like the City of Montreal. And they’re mightedly pissed off they have to go in early that day in order to be able to park.

    The only way to get people out of their car is to charge 3$/litre for gas. And maybe even that won’t be enough.

    And yes, I’m a cynic. At least I didn’t breed.

  20. means nothing… make it permanent…. bla bla bla… dude, the point is to raise awareness. Draconian changes will only raise anger. You tell everyone they can’t drive downtown anymore, I’ll just get an umbrella to shield myself from the blood splatter when your head gets hit with the bullet ;-)

    What I am for is toll booths at every bridge on this island so that the non-514 pay a lump sum of the monies needed to finance our roads and disuade them from driving in town like most of my co-workers. Where over 60% of my co-workers drive in from out of town. Which is insane. Make’em pay.

    So how’s that cynicism workin’ out for ya Mare ?

  21. Very enlightening article. I was wondering just why we were doing this Earth Hour thing here, but went along with it anyway. I’ll know for next year, won’t I.

    And, maybe I’ll trade in my gas-powered mower for a green electric one.

    Thanks for the post

  22. i believe that your statistics are flawed regarding the amount of CO2 given off in tropical countries. according to the International Rivers Network ( and the world commission on dams, large scale hydro projects are alot more damaging than you have made it out to be – not only in the amount of emissions, but in the displacement of people that the construction of new dams causes (ask the James Bay Cree if you want an example close to home, never mind the developing world!)

  23. A very interesting post – I was aware of the amount of our power generated from hydro-electricity but not of the relative CO2 impacts of dams in different parts of the world. But I think the relevance of reducing electricity consumption in Quebec is still high, it’s just less localized in its benefit. Hydro sells a significant amount of power to US states (and I thought to Ontario) and the more power available to them, the less they require greenhouse gas emitting power sources. On a short term basis, it makes less difference, but in the longer term it should be good. To me, that raises the question of whether Quebec should go further in building hydro power stations so that it can actively export the power to reduce the need for coal/oil/gas fired power stations nearby.

  24. I think, such activities are very positive in general to build awareness about environment (energy consumption, energy generation, pollution, material waste).
    Even, if a particular country is using renewable energy sources it doesn’t mean it couldn’t improve its efficiency rate, lower overall energy consumption by not lowering the quality of life or services and especially to address other pollution topics and material waste generation.
    To be successful it needs to be ‘spiced’ by fun and a bit of activism, too.

  25. It’s about the symbolism and making people aware.
    To Scott: Most of Hydro Quebec electricity comes from generation in the north of their own province and in Labrador. Newfoundland’s hydro capacity would not fire up an out house.

  26. Turning off the lights during winter in most regions of Canada accomplishes practically NOTHING. Standard incandescent lamps convert electrical energy to 10% light and 90% heat. So in the cold seasons, your heating system simply cranks up to cover the missing heat when you turn your lights off.

    If your house is heated by oil or natural gas, observing Earth Hour actually has the opposite of the intended effect. Turning off the lights (powered by “clean” hydro power) transfers more of the heating load to the furnace (powered by “dirty” fossil fuels). So here in Montreal, where it was -3.4 C last night at 8 PM, environmental emissions actually INCREASED as a direct result of people observing Earth Hour.

    The same logic explains the fallacy of using compact fluorescent (CF) light bulbs in cold environments. CF lamps accomplish no energy savings at all; instead, they add mercury (found in the gas inside the tube) and lead (found in the electronic ballast in the base) to our landfills.

    The only places you should be using CF lamps are in outdoor applications — porch lights and unheated garages — in order to avoid heating the outdoors. This WILL slightly reduce your energy consumption.

    Many environmental numbskulls also advocate unplugging your cellular phone charger when you’re not using it. Well, I just measured the AC current drain on my Sony Ericsson charger with the phone not connected — less than one-thousandth of an amp, which corresponds to about a tenth of a watt (for electro-geeks, no, I didn’t measure the power factor; it’s probably even lower).

    In plain English, you need to unplug at least 600 chargers to match the power of one 60-watt light bulb. Here in Canada, you’re much better off doing something more thousands of times more effective like installing thermostats that lower the heating at night and while you’re away during the day.

    Earth Hour is suposed to promote environmental awareness. The environment is not an abstract concept: it is where YOU live. Be aware of the special considerations of your own environment and act accordingly.

  27. Right on, Blork! Well, almost. You see, once the dam is built, CO2 emissions will take place, whether you use electricity or not (anybody thinking that the flooded trees wait for you to turn on the lights before they start rotting?). So the effect of saving hydro-electricity is zero, nothing whatsoever. Water over the dam, so to speak.

    And to mare, don’t talk about things you don’t understand. You cannot generate too much power on the grid, and it’s an electrical engineer who’s telling you. Electrical power wasted when unused, what a ridiculous concept! If power generation was left uncontrolled for even a second, the resulting voltage fluctuations would fry all your precious electronics in no time at all. And as for the residential use of electrical power, it *is* significant. So significant in fact that the annual power peak in Quebec is always observed at night, during a friggin’ cold January night, and that’s not from industrial use. ‘Nuff said on this.

    Coming back to the main topic: wake up people! We are in Quebec, with all that implies in terms of crappy weather. Turn off all the lights you want, it only means that your electric heating system will have to take over to provide the extra 200W the lights are no longer giving out. Net result? You will have saved the wear on your bulbs, and nothing more. NOTHING MORE.

    Sink it in your heads once and for all: all the electricity you use eventually ends up in the form of heat. No ifs, no buts, no this or that. ALL of it eventually becomes heat. In light of this, wouldn’t you agree that it is smart to get something more useful than just heat out of electricity? Watch TV all you want, it’s that much more you get out of the electricity you buy! Leave your PC running 24/7 all winter long if you wish. Or turn on the lights…

    I’ll push the nail even further. Many of us, including yours truly, suffer from the lack of sunlight during winter months. Well, the remedy is simple. No, I’m not talking about running to the doctor to get some magical prescription, idiot. I say light up your house as if it was broad daylight. Except for maybe 1% of the energy that will be lost from the light leaving through the windows (and it is no more than that, because only a small portion of it was converted into light in the first place), the rest will all end up as heat in your house. Use a ceiling fan (very little power required, and converted to heat anyway) to make sure that you’re not heating only the ceiling, and that’s it for winter depression. Think about the net effect on your health… turn on the lights!

    The only possible way to save power in Quebec during the heating season is to reduce the temperature in your house. Put on your slippers and turn it down a couple degrees, *that’s* smart.

    Now, about the “energy-saving” light bulbs… as I just said, who cares if they save energy in the winter. But!! They do last much, much longer, many years longer than regular bulbs in fact. Now, *that’s* important! It reduces landfill, and more importantly significantly reduces the energy required to produce light bulbs (which energy doesn’t heat up your home). Very smart, as long as you buy quality merchandise: fluo lighting devices are more toxic to produce and dispose of, so they are a smart choice *only* if they last for years.

    Anything to reduce waste is most welcome, for that is a real problem. Recycle all you can, and use any and all of the tricks you can think of to eliminate the unnecessary consumption of goods we are all used to. Don’t buy China-made crap that you will have to replace three times more often, buy lasting quality goods (but shopping for new stuff all the time is soo much fun! No wonder we’re all in debt). And buy products in eco-friendly packaging, you will be making a huge difference in the end.

    Oh, btw, for those of you that are slow on the uptake: the above discussion on non-existent electricity savings applies only during that part of the year during which we are actually heating our houses. In summer, electricity savings are not only possible, but smart. During the summer, turn off the lights and the TV, get off your lazy butts and go play outside. Again, you’ll be doing something for yourself by ending up in better health, and for everyone by saving power. Smart, huh?

    Being eco-friendly does require to use your head (ouch, that hurts), especially when it comes to issues such as power savings. Believing and promoting every buzz out there is, as always, plain stupid. Use your wits all the time, and weigh every single action you pose in a day. You will quickly realize that turning off the lights is the very least of your concerns.

  28. you are 100% right. i could not agree more. quebec’s energy is totally renewable. and quebec produces much more than it uses. right? so that erases the ecological footprint of everything else. you are so right. it would be pointless to make quebecers aware of the planet is destroying itself, pointless to raise awareness, the key to the solution, to point out that most communities along the St.Lawrence River are flooded in light like they will be in water as years go on. pointless to mention extremes weather patterns like we see more and more, such as the amazing ice storms you guys had, and the major winter we suddenly see after years of strangely mild weather. pointless to suggest that creating vast reservoirs in the north does create climate change especially if you do the same everywhere a damn could possibly be built, so that we can all bathe in light, like quebecers do, and not have to dim them. pointless to write these very lines, wasting the energy needed to power my computer because unlike the computers of quebecers, mine is running off nuclear energy, which by the way isn’t coal. does that mean i should also not have dimmed my light??? oh my dog!! how stupid was i? i actually turned all my lights off last night. i didn’t realize i was only supposed to dim them…. pointless it is to suggest that energy wasted in quebec might be usable elsewhere where coal is currently used maybe. NO, that water is quebec’s so if they want to see clearly as the earth floods and self-destroy, be it. pointless to point out that light will not come to quebec rescue’s as hell breaks loose in the future when our planet is literally falling part as we reach add a second digit to the billions of population we already have. quebec has a negative growth rate, therefore it doesn’t count as being on this planet.

    pointless to point out that as climate changes, rainfall and snow fall patterns are changing the very energy behind the water in quebec’s dams. pointless… pointless… pointless pointless… oh why bother do anything. let me take my car right now and go on a sunday shopping sprea to walmart since we only care about dimming light and my care does not use light, it uses gas. and goods made in china also do not required light, only diesel for the thousands of miles of transportation, electricity for the factory, energy to grow the food to feed the slave workers in the factory a minimum amount o soilen green to stay productive, oh, and light so they can work 24/7. well a little light…. pointless to take action. pointeless to think pointless to stay informed. pointless to care. pointless to have a brain. pointless to educate ourselves. excuse me, can you tell me where the nearest bridge is from which i can jump?

  29. @Julian Berdych: I take down the heat by myself at night and before I leave. I don’t need an extra device to do it for me.

    AWARENESS: implies vigilance in observing or alertness in drawing inferences from what one experiences

  30. Jean, it would be pointless to respond to your comment, since you obviously didn’t read my post.

  31. Blork,
    No, actually, I did read your post and I just read it again, to be absolutely sure of what you were saying, since you think response is obviously misinformed. Reducing ELECTRICITY consumption even in Quebec will have an impact. A real one. Everywhere. This wasn’t “turn off your gas lawmower day.” This day was a GESTURE. For AWARENESS. Not about saving electricity. Locally. Globally. You reduce it to an insignificant even in Quebec. If most Quebecers think like you, it’s a bit sad actually. I hope they don’t, though judging form the coverage of it that I see on Quebec sites, you may be closer than I’d like to public opinion there.

    Ultimately, the problem is that we are moving WAY to slow at addressing climatic change issues. I personally think that climatic changes predates our era and likely goes back to the industrial revolution, in a smaller way. There are a lot of factors involved.

    I think it’s too bad that the WWF didn’t think it important enough to translate their site into French. That might have helped a bit, though not with your own position on the matter. You are like people who say that solar energy in Toronto or Montreal is useless. THough maybe that’s not y our opinion, I don’t know. You say Yellowknife or Oslo. Sure, it’s less productive their further north you go and the less sun you get. But some people get amazing results with cogeneration in the Northern US.

    Saying that turning off your lights in Quebec is pointless is like saying that straight people wearing the red ribbon or men wearing the pink ribbon is pointless. Earth hour is about emission. So if Quebec reduces it consumption by 10% and the power is redistributed on the grid, then maybe you can have less coal-power in Arizona. Do you know how much coal is still used today to produce electricity? In case you don’t know it, Quebec is till on the same planet as Ontario and the United States, and China. And to say that candles lit last night offset the reduction in emissions is kind of lame. Did you see just how many lights got turned off in Toronto? I can tell you that I didn’t go nuts on candles. I had a couple, in my house which is quite large and normally would have a lot more going on in it.

    So what I’m saying is that YES I read your stuff, and re-read it, and read some of the comments, though not all. i’m sorry about that. and i think that this was probably the biggest event ever about global warming, which is coming at us much faster than we care to think. Missing the event because you say it doesn’t apply to us, is kind of missing the boat as far as I’m concerned. And judging by what I see around me in terms of awareness, this may be the only boat we ever get. You hydro electricity is not so much use when your hydro towers crumble under the weight of ice, more than probably any one ever saw, due to some weird phenomenon. Ok, replace the towers with more robust ones. But I think we’re seeing a lot of weird stuff going on with the weather, and look at the North, and how much the ice has shrunk. Any power saved is a step in the right direction, because ultimately, most of us around here are on electric systems that touch each other.

    When push comes to shove, people and countries may do a lot more than we think they will to get to the water. So anything we can do to help globally is worth doing. And any electricity saved is a step in the right direction if it can offset dirty electricity production. Maybe you did not really read what ‘I’ wrote….

  32. Jean, I did not say we shouldn’t reduce consumption of electricity in Quebec. In fact, several times I said we SHOULD reduce consumption here. The point of my post is that reducing electricity consumption in Quebec will have no direct effect on greenhouse gas emissions. That’s all I said, and I repeated that that is all I said several times.

    As I said, there are reasons to reduce electricity consumption in Quebec, but lowering emissions is not one of them.

    Let me ask you: if I had solar panels on my roof, and 100% of my electricity was obtained through those solar panels, would it make any difference to global warming if I turned my lights off?

  33. @EE: you could easily say ‘your words’ in a bit more tolerant way, if you want to be respected as an expert. We are all eager to learn more from people who know.

    Nikola Tesla was a genius, but he was not polite, but very rude…T.A.Edison cashed that fact enormously
    i especially like your suggestions about effect of Full Spectrum Light in winter; heating only the ceiling if not using fan; and staying outdoor in summer as much as possible!
    my father is an, too, expert for el.grid, high voltage systems and high current installations/devices (industry), and he uses the very same vocabulary as you…now, I finally understand

  34. Hi Blork,

    If you had solar panels, were not purchasing electricity, and were disconnected from the grid, then no it would matter how much electricity you save, at least not in a direct way. But if like many who choose to have solar panels, you choose to have a reverse meter and feed your surplus back into the system, then yes it would make a difference. If Quebec was producing electricity for itself only, and using it in such a way that no more dams will be required, then it would matter a lot less. But if Quebec reduced its electricity consumption by 50% and used the remaining 50% in the production of hydrogen for hydrogen fuel cell cars for instance, then yes you’ve reduced the emissions.

    Turning off lights (and really, lights are symbolic than anything here) in Quebec, if this creates surplus energy that be be sent to areas that use fossil fuels to produce electricity will reduce emissions if the fossil fuel generating facitlities are shut down.

    Turning off lights in Quebec, or anywhere else for that mattaer, and only for 1 hour is not the point. The point is awareness. The fact that today, the Toronto Star had a feature on the event. It gets people talking. I send pictures to my family, in Quebec. That’s more awareness (especially, if they subscribe to the doing-it-in-Quebec-is-pointless point of view.)

    It’s almost as if you’re playing on technicalities when you write and talk about this. I know that what you wrote talks about various options if energy consumption is reduced in Quebec. But the gist of the whole thing is that it was pointless to do it last night. That’s where I could not disagree more. Last night is awareness. It’s not saving energy. So long as Quebec can import/export electricity, how much is consumed there does matter. Quebec is quite unique in this respect. Most places do not use hydro-electricity. And I think some Quebecers don’t even realize that. It amazes me that so much electricity continues to be produced with coal, with oil, and that nuclear is on the rise. It amazes me that not all buildings don’t have to be equiped, by law, with panels so they can produce electricity during the day when people are not at home.

    If you don’t see my point, ie that Quebec is as far as I know on the electric grid, and that electricity in many areas is still produced by fossil fuels, and that using Quebec’s energy outside Quebec is better for the planet, including, Quebec, than burning fossil fuels, then I don’t get it, frankly. If you’re trying to make an academic argument about whether last night was a stupid gesture, then maybe you’re doing a good job. We all need to reduce energy consumption and to change our ways. And we are doing it so terribly slowly. If we reduce our use of electricity, then we don’t need to make as much. If we don’t have to make as much, then we can shut down the dirtiest ways of producing the electricity. I don’t understand why we’re even talking about this anymore.

    If you still think I’m out to lunch, then be it. Maybe I don’t get some kind of weird humour behind what your wrote or something. But to me what you are saying is basically that last night was pointless as far as QC is concerned. And what I’m saying is that it’s only pointless if Quebec exists on its own, and it doesn’t.

    Take care.

  35. To Curt,

    You are absolutely right, and I should apologize for my tone. But I do get *really* fed up of all the misinformation that only muddies genuinely important issues like this one. The one message I am trying to get through is that conservation is possible only through carefully thinking over all of our habits. The operative word being thinking. And I find that, to get people to think, it is often necessary to sting them a bit. ;-)

  36. All those years of living next to the steel plant and the tar ponds, I’m think to CO2 emissions were probably the LEAST of our concerns!

  37. @EE: You are the Man!
    I think, that electricity is a particularly complicated matter. It looks so very easy to induce it and basic equations in classroom, but if you come to the real life – national grid, everything becomes so very complicated. It works or you are in total darkness. It is important, because it is almost literally about life and dead.
    We can’t afford to make black outs, because there are too many casualties, after. We are simply far too much ‘electricity/power dependent’ and I think ‘too much spoiled’, either by good power providers, to really comprehend the very meaning of power for our modern life style.
    Could you imagine:no light, no Internet, no computer, no heating,
    no cooling, no fridge/freezer and no cold beer or hot cappuccino?
    (My father always said to me I was ‘intellectually under…the line’, but I know he was much better…and once he insisted to stick by his own project, which was overruled. He left the company. After one month, brand new industrial production line in excess of $100m totally burned down, because it is quite tricky to deal with very high currents in reality. They hired him again, but he charged them 3x more.)

    Guys, I think it is worthwhile to see ‘The Cream’ of solar cell scientific research of this planet, if the boss of this web site is going to allow me to post this link.
    The lady, whose work is going to profoundly change the use of solar power, worldwide. Her goal is to reach 50% efficiency rate!!! for mass production. She is truly a Hero, the same to prof.Barnett.
    Professor Christiana Honsberg
    Proffesor Allen Barnett

    they spent ‘just’ $13m to reach world record of near 43% efficiency.
    Just try to compare that number with $150billion, which Britain is going to spend only to clear up old nuclear rubbish from old nuclear power plants??? Nothing new, just old sins, rather than building renewable.

  38. Thanks for the link, Lucas.

    However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, the article you point to refers to tropical hydro power, which is very different from hydro power generated in a boreal region. The Sierra Club guy I referred to in my post referred to that specifically; he said that hydro power plants in tropical zones can product about 10% of the gases that a coal powered one creates, but that in boreal areas it’s between 1% and 3%. The main difference is that the vegetation in tropical areas is much richer, plus the water is much warmer.

    The other thing to consider is that over time, that CO2 gets used up as the veg rots completely. The Hydro Quebec dams were built something like 30 years ago, so their CO2 is likely already done with. In other words, it’s a “sunk cost.” It’s already been spent, and the dams are still there so we might as well use them.

    However, I will give the article a closer read, as it implies the tropical plants can give off MORE than a coal fired plant, which means that maybe the boreal ones are giving off more too.

    Finally, I just want to say that I am not advocating the building of more dams. My point was very specific to the situation here, in Quebec. It was not about hydro power in general.

  39. Hey blork, better give hydro quebec a call to let them know what you think of their new recyc-frigo program: :)

    From the FAQ on:

    What makes my old appliance so harmful to the environment?

    A refrigerator over 10 years old consumes an average of three times more energy than a more recent model and has a number of harmful effects on the environment, notably by contributing to greenhouse gases and acid rain due to its high energy consumption.

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