Local landmarks dim for Earth hour

Columbia saw a 2.5-megawatt drop in electricity relative to average energy.

Columbia residents reduced average electricity intake by 2.5 megawatts during its annual Earth Hour event March 26.

Earth Hour is a national initiative organized by the World Wildlife Fund encouraging people to turn off lights and appliances for one hour. It aims to raise awareness toward the need to take action on climate change.

“The important thing to remember is that people need to be energy efficient year-round,” Utility Services Specialist Connie Kacprowicz said. “It’s cheaper for us to get people to use less energy than to use power for Columbia. Our initiatives are to try to reduce energy consumption throughout the year.”

Both local businesses and residents were encouraged to get involved in the event, Kacprowicz said. Columbia landmarks, including the MU Columns, Jesse Hall, Stankowski Field, the Columbia Public Library and The Tiger Hotel all dimmed or completely turned off their lights in honor of the movement.

Other restaurants, including Flat Branch Pub and Brewery, Bleu, Sophia’s and Uprise Bakery switched off their lights and instead used candles at dinner Saturday night.

2011 marks the third year Columbia has participated in the event, which started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia.

This year, Columbia saw a 2.5-megawatt drop in electricity, which is based on an average amount of electricity consumption relative to the rest of the year. Last year, Columbia’s electric load dropped by 1.58 megawatts during Earth Hour.

“The 2.5 megawatts of electricity is equivalent to the amount of power used by 98 homes in Columbia in an average day,” a news release stated.

Columbia Water and Light also took into account other reasons for the energy reduction, including fewer people in town due to spring break.

“It’s really weather dependant and also when you see things like spring break, it can change the amount of electric customers in town,” Kacprowicz said. “Also any kind of temperature can play into that. It was cold that day so people had their heaters on — some people have electric heat so we have to take those things into consideration.”

Because the National Earth Hour fell during spring break, MU also has plans to hold its own version of an Earth Hour-type event sometime next week, MU Sustainability Coordinator Steve Burdic said.

“It raises people’s awareness about how much energy is used and where it comes from,” Burdic said. “It’s really just a ‘stop and take a look around and see where your energy comes from.’”

In past years, Sustain Mizzou coordinated an MU Earth Hour, which has grown into a larger university event.

“I think it’s a good way to get it into the public conversation even if in the end it doesn’t save that much electricity,” Sustain Mizzou President Tina Casagrand said.

Casagrand said energy consumption is important for everyone, including college students.

“Economically, especially for off campus students to pay their own bills, it makes sense to turn off your computers and lights,” she said.

MU’s event would predominantly raise awareness about how to reduce energy consumption rather than actually reducing energy, which is tougher to measure, Burdic said.

“For me, it just reminds me to do it every day,” Burdic said. “I’m an advocate of sustainability. This is a worldwide movement to draw attention to the issue.”

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