When the Lights Go Out: How Earth Hour Impacts Power Plants

Russia has the Unified Energy System (UES), which was finally formed in the 1980s. From that moment on, each region became part of a huge network. It has no borders and binding of the station to the place where it is located. For example, there is a nuclear power plant near the city of Kursk that generates much more electricity than the region needs. The rest of the energy is redistributed throughout the country.

Power generation planning is handled by system operators. Their job is to create a schedule for power plants from one hour to several years, as well as to normalize power supply during major disruptions and emergencies. Experts take into account annual, seasonal and daily rhythms. They do everything so that turning off or turning on both the light bulb in the kitchen and the whole enterprise is possible without interruption in work. Of course, major holidays and promotions are taken into account. By the way, the organizers of Earth Hour do not directly report on the action, since its scale is small. But be sure to warn the city administration, from them the information is already coming to the EEC.

In the event of a serious accident, breakdowns or interruptions, other stations increase the power, compensating and restoring the balance. There is also an automatic backup system that instantly responds to failures and voltage drops. Thanks to her, energy surges that occur daily do not cause failures. Even in case of unexpected connection of large consumers of energy (which in itself is possible in rare cases), this fuse is able to provide the necessary energy until the power generation is increased.

So, the system is debugged, the turbines of power plants are dispersed, the operators are trained, and then comes … “Earth Hour”. At 20:30, thousands of people turn off the light in the apartment, the houses are plunged into darkness and candles light up. And to the surprise of most skeptics, the empty burning of electricity, the ignition of gadgets powered by the network, does not occur. To verify this, I propose to compare the energy consumption graphs on March 18 and 25.


A small fraction of a percentage, by which the participants of the action reduce energy consumption, is not reflected in the UES. Most of the energy is consumed not by lighting, but by large enterprises and the heating system. Less than 1% of the daily intake is not comparable to those accidents that occur almost every year. Few people know about these accidents – a system that has been worked out for years is bearing fruit. If the action was more global in nature, then this would not cause any shock – the shutdown occurs on the scheduled day and at a certain period of time.

In addition, some stations are not only able to respond to fluctuations in consumption in a timely manner, but also benefit from the “calm”. Hydroelectric power plants, when energy consumption decreases, can turn off turbines and pump water into special reservoirs. The stored water is then used to generate energy during times of increased demand.

Official sources say that this year 184 countries participated in the action, in Russia the action was supported by 150 cities. The illumination of architectural monuments and administrative buildings was turned off. In Moscow, the lighting of 1700 objects went out for one hour. Colossal numbers! But not everything is so simple. Electricity savings in Moscow during Earth Hour are less than 50000 rubles – energy-saving lighting devices are primarily used to illuminate administrative and cultural facilities

According to US research conducted over 6 years in 11 countries, it was found that Earth Hour reduces daily energy consumption by an average of 4%. In some regions, energy savings are 8%. In the West, this percentage is taken into account and there is some reduction in output. Unfortunately, Russia has not yet been able to achieve such indicators, but even with an increase in this percentage, no one would irrationally “burn the surplus”. simple economics. The more supporters the action has, the more tangibly the energy consumption will be reduced.

At 21:30 p.m., the lights turn on almost simultaneously. Many opponents of the action will immediately turn to the example that with the maximum use of energy in a house or apartment, the light from the light bulb may fade or flicker. Opponents cite this as evidence that the power plants are failing to keep up with the load. As a rule, the main reason for such “flickering” is faulty electrical wiring, a fairly common occurrence for old houses. With the simultaneous inclusion of household appliances in the house, worn out wires can overheat, which leads to this effect.

There are fluctuations in energy consumption every day – factories start working in the morning, and in the evening people return from work and almost simultaneously turn on the lights, TV, start cooking food on electric stoves or heat it up in microwave ovens. Of course, this is on a much larger scale and one way or another, the entire population of the country participates in it. Therefore, such a jump in energy consumption has long been commonplace for electricity producers.

In addition, the force of the drop when the devices are turned on across the district and at home is neutralized by transformers. In cities, such installations, as a rule, are of two- and three-transformer types. They are designed in such a way that they are able to distribute the load among themselves, change their power depending on the electricity consumed at the moment. Most often, single-transformer stations are located in areas of summer cottages and villages; they cannot provide a large flow of energy and maintain stable operation in the event of strong power surges. In cities, they cannot stably maintain the supply of energy to multi-storey residential buildings.

The WWF Wildlife Foundation notes that reducing energy consumption by an hour is not the goal. The organizers do not conduct any special measurements and statistics on energy, and emphasize the main idea of ​​the action – to call on people to treat nature carefully and responsibly. If every day people do not waste energy, start using energy-saving light bulbs, turn off the light when it is not needed, then the effect will be much more noticeable for everyone. And in fact, Earth Hour is a reminder that we are not alone on this planet and we need to take care of the world around us. This is the rare case when people around the world come together to express a sense of care and love for their home planet. And even if one hour does not have an immediate impact, but in the long run it can change the attitude towards our home – the Earth.


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