daylight saving energy?

As virtually everyone living in south-east Queensland knows, our state does not have daylight saving, and the southern states do. I regularly read in newspapers that most people in south-east Queensland wish we did have daylight saving, and it is those in the more sparsely populated north and the west of the state that oppose it.

I wrote last summer that I am in the minority – I assume – of Brisbanites who are not too keen on adopting daylight saving. Apart from anything else, I don’t like the idea of the heat of the day not finishing until one hour later. Certainly most people I talk to look at me as though there’s something wrong with me when I say I’m not personally in favour of it.

It may be that the people I talk to are more likely to have an environmental bent, but one reason I’ve heard given in favour of daylight saving for many years is that it would reduce energy consumption because people wouldn’t turn their lights on until later. I often wondered how valid this was, particularly since the widespread adoption of air conditioners around Brisbane, as daylight saving would mean people are more likely to get home while it’s still stinking hot and turn on their air conditioner to cool their house.

I saw a piece on Peter Martin’s blog today which touched on this issue. Apparently there is new leglislation in the USA which will this year bring forward the start of daylight saving to March instead of April, “as a means of reducing power consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.”

However, Martin quotes a study – based on analysing Australian data – which suggests that daylight saving can lead to increased energy consumption, rather than a reduction. Although the study looked at the effect of extending daylight saving for longer, rather than whether or not to do it at all, I don’t see why the principle behind the result wouldn’t the same.

As noted above, for some reason talking against daylight saving seems to instinctively be seen as an open invitation for ridicule, with lots of tired jibes about ‘fading the curtains’ and the like, so I will emphasise that I am not suggesting by any means that this should be at the forefront of our efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. None the less, given how difficult it is going to be to reduce our emissions by the amount we need to, the energy impact of what time we set our clocks in Australia might merit some further examination. At the very least, I wouldn’t like to see environmental arguments being used to convince Queenslanders to take up daylight saving if the reality is that it would make energy emissions worse.

PS:  If you’re interested in some background information on daylight saving and its history in Australia, this link goes to a research note by the Parliamentary Library.  I think the following quote from it is a lovely example of the way international political compromise can work, even on arcane issues like this:

In 1970 the Coordinated Universal Time system was devised by an international advisory group of technical experts within the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The ITU felt it was best to designate a single abbreviation for use in all languages in order to minimize confusion. Since unanimous agreement could not be achieved on using either the English word order, CUT, or the French word order, TUC, the acronym UTC was chosen as a compromise.

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  1. We’ve had this pernicious intrusion down here in Adelaide for ages. Let me assure readers that Sen. Bartlett’s concerns are all well founded, from personal experience.
    It was foistered on the South Australian workforce by the chamber of commerce, but you can bet their eyeballs are not hanging out of their heads through lack of sleep when they get up later, when the sun is already out.
    Some of the nonsense we were fed for its introduction rate with the one by the retail stores when arguing for open-slather shopping hours, about that being needed for “tourists”.
    But be warned. The consequences of daylight saving do not affect just a few inconsequential shopworkers and small shop owners, but whole slabs of your community.

  2. The time zone difference between NSW and Queensland is very important to me. I fly between Sydney and Brisbane a lot. As you know, it’s a 90-minute flight: not long enough to watch a film. BUT, when daylight saving is on in one State but not the other, the outward flight is half an hour and the return flight is two and a half hours. So then at least I can watch a film on the return flight.

  3. We must assume Jason is joking or the tired old jokes Senator are indeed aliev and well.

    The environmental issue at the very best could only be marginal, given one would assume the major driver in emissions is the production of energy (ie the power stations and associated extraction of coal and the like), a 24/7 process, not the turning on or off of a switch.

    Yes the end of day tasks are undertaken in lighter and hotter times than during winter, to my mind this is well offset by the light time avialbe for recerational and other family summer pursuitys, clearly not enjoyed by thjose in Adleaide. Perhasop Iceland woumd appeal.

  4. True that. I live in Qld and I don’t like the idea of daylight savings at all, and I grew up in NSW. I found it a relief when I moved up here – it’s unnecessary and fussy. If people want more light in their waking hours, then they can get out of bed earlier for a morning stroll! I do think it makes sense that there would increase energy consumption with the introduction of daylight savings. It’d be nice to see a few more studies on that. (Oh, and the curtains – can’t have them fading!)

    More generally – I appreciate your dedication to this blog, Sen. Bartlett. Thanks.

  5. Jason Grossman
    Can you run that bit about movie times on the flights past me again – I missed something in the calculations I think!
    I am opposed to DSL and we have just had it forced upon us here in the West in complete disregard to three referendums clearly rejecting the idea.
    Now we have our energy supplier pleading with us to think before we turn on our air conditioners etc in the afternoon / evening or we may face rolling blackouts.

    Fight hard Queenslanders – it is just a damn nuisance and has absolutly no benefits

  6. Well Tom, I guess you are having a go at the people that made that stupid statement,eventhough it was made in jest or a stir.WA as you may know where forced into a 3 year trial,believe me the state government will pay dearly for this at election time.The people have already had 3 referendum’s & a trial previously that’s why the answer was a resounding NO.Mainly people from other states enjoy DLS,when it comes to the vote in 3yrs the No’s will have it unless the government take the choice from the people.WA temperatures & heat are very different from other states.Children in the country areas are coming home in the heat of the day in sweltering buses,for some the trip is well over an 1 1/2 hours.
    More time with the family they say,what rubbish.Many are told they are working compulsary over time,it doesn’t stop your tax from jumping either the only winners here are business & government.People in general have been making the same comments,the sooner its stopped the better for many reasons.The children deserve more that part time parents.If people want DLS hours fine return to the state you came from or get up ealier.

  7. What extraordinary vehemence…obvioulsy us in NSW are way out of step with the rest of the country.

    Wran brought it in in the 70’s here from memory, with no great electoral effect, and it’s never been a political issue ever since.

    Given the heat displayed in some contributions far from not wanting daylighht sabvibng maybe there should be a puch to return WA to greenwich mean time, at least you wouldn’t have to get up in the middle of the night to see the football live.

  8. Maybe I’m outnumbered. Queensland tried it many years ago, and I thought it was marvellous here in Brisbane.

    Some sunrise/sunset stats for today 16 Jan 07:
    Brisbane: 05:07 – 18:47
    Sydney: 06:00 – 20:09
    Melbourne: 06:15 – 20:44
    Hobart: 05:51 – 20:49
    Adelaide: 06:18 – 20:32
    Perth: 06:26 – 20:25
    Darwin: 06:33 – 19:19
    Even with an extra hour, we would still have the earliest sunset (apart from Darwin).

    Also, Brisbane is the Eastern-most capital – the closest to being in the next time zone (1hr further ahead). Perth and Darwin are close to the Western boundaries of their timezones, and therefore less likely to be happy with it.

  9. May be the status of the Senator should be Prophet Bartlett,Victoria,my old state still has heaps of daylight saving to notice it is a charcoal economy..And God help the place because,the citizens there will start to pull there hair out,when charity at home first…just doesnt happen,and who are its natural leaders now?

  10. I’m not in favour of daylight saving.

    When we had a trial of it before, mothers complained that it was too hot for their children to get to sleep at night. I think that’s fairly important.

  11. I moved to Brisbane about two years ago, and I miss daylight savings. One of the great things about the southern summer is the long summer evenings which you can get out and enjoy.

    Having said that, after living through a couple of Queensland summers, I’m quite happy to see the sun set at this time of year! The afternoon heat can be intense and I’m still not really acclimatised… so I’m in two minds about the whole thing.

    If it came to a choice, I’d probably say QLD should have DLS. Most of my family is still down south, and a lot of the people i work with are in Melbourne – being an hour out of sync with them can be very annoying at times.

    As for energy savings, well, i’m not convinced it would make much of a difference. It’ll be interesting to check back next year and see what happens in the US.

  12. Andrew, lots of us find the Brisbane summer heat and humidity a trial, and discovered Daylight Saving for us meant waiting around until the sun dropped before attending to outside chores; not just the recreation bit– Incidentally, high humidity increases the temperature ‘effect’ by about 3degreesC. I lived in NSW (Wollongong) for 6 years and what a shock re climate difference!People used to leave the beach at 3pm because a too cool breeze invariably appeared..not so in Brissy. The softer southern NSW climes and long twilights made summer outdoor activity a delight–
    It takes time for the heat transfer in our QLD houses to occur each evening, so Sunset can’t happen too soon for me. Hot kitchens are not fun, and darkening bedrooms with curtains (some people are shiftworkers)is stifling and delays room cooling, even with ceiling fans and insulated roofs.. I also came from Rockhampton which was even more humid and debilitating at times. One doesnt have to be old to have need to minimise unnecessary heat stress–

  13. wa has just got daylight saving
    what a joke ppl are now working 15 hours a day.
    three reforendums that sead no and this govt still got it in .
    i think it will be bad for them in the next election.
    its ok for the paper pushers that dont realy work mutch .
    but those ppl who work outside all it has ment that they start 1 hour earlier in the morning and working in the heat of the day.
    the govt has a new ad on t.v. how to save power between 2pm and 5pm how convenient.
    it will be interesting when the kids get back to school they will be getting out at 3.30 pm whitch is realy 2.30 pm which happens to be the hottest part of our day here.
    all those turkyes that work in the city and do busseness with the east coast had to do was start 1hour earlier problem solved.

    i lived in brisbane for 20yrs and like w.a. daylight saving is the last thing that you need

  14. I enjoyed daylight savings when I lived in the UK, but it’s quite different to Brisbane.

    Personally I like it, but I’m often working at places that are flexible enough for me to come in and leave early – the only problem being fewer trains early in the morning.

    And when we did have our trial years ago, I kept missing movies because “surely it can’t be 7.30 already!”

    It’s not something I’m about to go to the barricades about.

  15. It’s great to go down to the beach at the end of a long day and it’s still light

    After work you can do down to the park and have a bbq at 7pm and have a good time with the family.

    You can go for a walk with your wife and it’s still light.

    I love Daylight Savings …

  16. “DSL is bad because people set their computer time to GMT+8:00 and it doesn’t consider DLS” Anonymous

    Honestly, it’s comments like this that gives the opposers of DLS a bad name. I have yet to experience the horrors of daylight savings as I’m a student, and there’s still a week of the school holidays left. But I must say, I can’t wait to hop on the crowded bus at 2:30. I’d like to know what exactly made the state government decide to disregard past refferendums.

    Sure it’s great for the beach goers and all. But it’s a pain for myself and a few if not many others. The spend time with family comments are ridiculous. Oh well, I can only hope the “againsts” will outnumber the “fors” when comes election time.

    Personally I think DSL won’t be as bad as people make it out to be. (Bar the heat) But if there’s any advantage in DSL that I comprehend it’ll be a first.

    My hopes for now rest with QL not adopting this silly policy.

  17. It can’t be that hard to tell whether or not moving daylight savings does save energy or it doesn’t.
    All you would need to do is look at how much power is being used in the week before a change and how much is being used after and see if there is any valid statistical difference.
    If they do the measurements at both ends of the DST period over a few years and across all the DST states that should counteract any variations due to the weather from one week to the next.
    At the same time they could use a state like Queensland that doesn’t do DST as a control case.
    It either works or it doesn’t. It seems to me that it can’t be that hard to find out. And yes, definitely, don’t make the change if it doesn’t really give the environmental benefit. Bad or sloppy science in the name of the environment can only undermine the reputation of the environmental movement.

  18. Sandra

    They did trial DSL in Qld once when I was a child. I forget when it was exactly but it was the late 60s early 70s. It was still light when children needed to go to bed to have a good night’s sleep. Of course they couldn’t get the kids settled. In North Qld it was worse. Parent’s didn’t like it, so they Government went along with their wishes.

  19. a small note a local radio station has just run a survey on dls and 98% sead the were against it after it has been in for 6 weeks .
    it will be around 40 degrees here on the first day of school and the students will be comming home in the hottest part of that day.

  20. I too live in WA, and when the time comes for voting, I will definantly be voting against it. I am currently researching the affect daylight savings has had on WA and Australia in general. I went to the Daylight Savings Party website and read a bit of the president’s address, and do you know what he said? “The policy of the party is simple… to legislate the introduction of Daylight Saving to WA. We don’t want another referendum because we think that it may be voted down.” Well of course it will!

  21. Daylight saving in WA is terrible – my 6yo son is now rising at 5.30am (all times mentioned here are real WA time) in the dark to get on the school bus in time, but the real toll is being on the bus for an hour at peak heat, 2.10 pm, every day. He is in bed at 6.30pm and the sun is setting about 7.30pm, so going to sleep is not easy unless he is really exhausted.

    To those who say it is better for business – I used to work for a stockbroker in St Geo Tce Perth, and I know of the following disadvantages to the ‘business group’ 1. losing the hour overlap of business time with London & Europe 2. losing business time with our main trading partners in China, Singapore, Japan… crazy 3. losing prime parking spots as everyone else turns up early for work 4. longer commute to work as the roads are busier with everyone turning up early for work.

    In reply to those who claim Daylight Saving also saves energy – 1. additional 100km trip per week to counter my son’s exhaustion to pick him up from school on very hot days 2. airconditioning is running longer than normal to make house cooler at a. school bus time (the school bus is not airconditioned and on 45c days he is near heat exhaustion when he gets home) and b. bedtime so that he has a better chance of going to sleep when the sun is still up and temperature outside is still over 25c. 3. increased use of lights in the house, as curtains must be drawn to stop heat during afternoon. When on normal time I can open windows about 4pm (school bus home time), when the home gets busier with evening activities. Daylight saving means the house is more active from 3pm meaning the lights are turned on in the house for an extra hour.

    Additionally, the huge number of traffic accidents in WA this summer must in some part be down to tiredness – not being bothered to put on seatbelts!

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