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Would Extending British Summer Time Reduce Winter Demand?

Over the weekend, the UK turned back the clocks, signalling a close to Daylight Savings Time (DST) for the year. However, while the original intent of DST was to save energy, its impact on energy consumption is questionable in the modern world.

According to energy expert Professor Aiofe Foley, stopping the turning back of the clocks in October would reduce annual household expenses by over £400, providing much-needed financial relief for families and individuals grappling with the escalating cost of living.

Conversely, those against this change voice concerns about the supposed financial advantages, highlighting how enjoying longer, lighter evenings merely shifts peak energy demand to the darker mornings.

In this blog, we delve into the history of DST and the arguments for and against keeping it.

  • What is Daylight Saving Time (DST)?

DST involves moving the clocks forward by an hour in Spring and reversing the change in Autumn, with the intention to maximise daylight during the longer days of Spring and Summer.

In the UK, the practice of clocks going forward an hour in Spring, a period commonly known as British Summer Time (BST), was first conceived by the British builder William Willet. According to various historical secondary sources, the idea of aligning the clocks to better fit daylight hours first arose in the early 1900s when Willet noticed that the blinds and curtains in neighbouring houses were still drawn despite being daylight outside.

Willet, while not the first advocate for the idea, stood out for his exceptional commitment to it, financing a pamphlet outlining his vision to adapt clocks to daylight hours during the Summer. Titled ‘The Waste of Daylight, his leaflet and campaigning gained the support of MPs, though it ultimately did not secure approval in Parliament.

  • Proposed Benefits of Stopping The October Clock Reversal

Sticking to BST throughout the year is argued to offer numerous benefits, with one of the most prominent being the extended period of daylight in the evenings. By forgoing the turning back of the clocks in October, the UK gains an extra hour of daylight during the evening hours between 5pm and 7pm. Although small, this change could positively impact our daily lives, from boosting productivity and wellbeing, to reducing feelings of fatigue.

The increase in evening daylight also results in a decrease in energy consumption during this period. As more people take advantage of natural light, there is a reduced reliance on artificial lighting and heating during the early evening hours, potentially leading to savings on electricity and gas bills. According to Professor Foley, households would benefit greatly from this adjustment, potentially saving around £1.20 per day, £36 a month, and around £430 a year.

  • But Would Evening Energy Demand Really Be Reduced?

While keeping the clocks on BST and enjoying lighter evenings may reduce energy demand during the evening peak, it’s crucial to bear in mind that this shift would lead to darker mornings. Without natural daylight during the early hours, lights across the country would need to be switched on for visibility, and households would need to heat up their boilers to combat the cold morning temperatures.

Supporters of the current system argue that the decrease in energy demand during the evening peak would simply result in a corresponding increase in morning demand, thus offering no material reduction in overall energy consumption.

Even our government opposes the change, disputing the claimed financial savings and asserting that the existing model provides ‘optimal use of the available daylight across the UK.’

  • Closing Comments

The subject of abolishing or altering the UK Daylight Savings Time model is a topic of intense debate. While advocates for changing the clocks present compelling arguments and propose alleged benefits for reducing energy consumption during peak evening demand, the current model is expected to remain the status quo for the foreseeable future.

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