Earth Hour shines a light on energy consumption and climate change by encouraging residents and companies around the world to switch their own lights off for 60 minutes.
From 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 31, Whistler residents, visitors, and businesses turned off their lights and to make a further commitment to energy savings.
This is the fifth year of Earth Hour, which was started by the World Wildlife Fund in Sydney, Australia, in 2007 - Whistler, too, took part. That first year, 2.2 million people and over 2,000 businesses switched off. Last year, 134 countries participated, including 422 municipalities around Canada.
Last year, Whistler won the Sea to Sky Challenge, with power consumption reduced by 4.35 per cent between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on March 26, 2011, marking a decrease of 1.15 per cent over 2010. Squamish dropped its electricity usage by 1.49 per cent, while Pemberton saw an increase in consumption of 1.95 per cent.
This year, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) did not repeat a pedal-powered free concert attended by 400 people in 2011 at Whistler Olympic Plaza, which was a one-off thanks to external funding. Instead, the RMOW marked Earth Hour by turning off festive lighting in the Village and Whistler Olympic Plaza, turning off lights at municipal buildings, turning off lighting on the Lost Lake cross-country ski trails, and turning off all heat tracing in the Village.
A spokesperson for the RMOW said its Official Community Plan (OCP) update under consideration includes a targeted "whole community, annual" energy consumption reduction of 10 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020. The updated OCP includes an entire new chapter dedicated to "Climate Action & Energy."
Total energy consumption across all municipal buildings for natural gas and electricity was 4,700 GJ lower in 2011 than the previous year — equal to the annual consumption of approximately 52 single family homes, she added. Most of this improvement came from improvements at the Meadow Park Sports Centre.
Visitors were encouraged to take part, with many restaurants expected serving food by candle light.
The District of Squamish (DOS) encouraged residents to mark Earth Hour tonight by turning off any unnecessary appliances, lights and electronic devices between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. The DOS invited those who skate to mark Earth Hour by attending a special Glow In The Dark public skating session at the Brennan Park arena.
BC Hydro is also encouraged British Columbians to support Earth Hour 2012 by turning off their lights. Last year, 117 megawatt hours of electricity was saved in B.C., with the provincial electricity load reduced by 1.8 percent — the equivalent of turning off 7.8 million 15-watt compact fluorescent light bulbs for the hour.
To date, 87 municipalities in British Columbia have confirmed their participation, said BC Hydro in a release.