Stop wasting time – introduce daylight saving!

With our abundance of wind, waves and sun, the Cape Town region is better positioned to lead the renewable energies charge than just about anywhere else in the world.

But in addition to new forms of power generation, surely we should be talking more seriously about introducing daylight saving. If people can work out the 2c/kWh levy that was introduced in last year’s budget, they can certainly work out changing their clocks by an hour twice a year.

The main purpose of daylight saving is to make better use of daylight. It was introduced in the US and UK during World War I, when it was adopted to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power.

It has been proved that introducing daylight saving time does save energy. Research from the US Department of Transportation has shown that daylight saving time trims the country’s electricity usage by a small but significant amount – about 1% each day – because less electricity is used for lighting and appliances. Similarly, in New Zealand, power companies have found that power usage decreases by 3.5% when daylight saving starts. In the first week, peak evening consumption commonly drops about 5%.

Energy use and the demand for electricity for lighting homes are directly related to the times when people go to bed at night and rise in the morning. In the average home, 25% of electricity is used for lighting and small appliances, such as TVs, VCRs and stereos. A good percentage of energy consumed by lighting and appliances occurs in the evening, when families are home. By moving the clock ahead one hour and taking advantage of longer and later daylight hours, we use less energy in lighting our homes, and the amount of electricity consumed each day decreases.

A study by the US Law Enforcement Assistance Administration found that crime was consistently lower during periods of daylight saving time than during comparable standard time periods. Data showed violent crime was down 10% to 13%. It is clear that for crimes such as muggings, where darkness is a factor, there are many more incidents after dusk than before dawn, so light in the evening is most welcome.

Interestingly, Namibia is the third African country to introduce daylight saving time – the others are Tunisia and Egypt. South Africans, however, have been discussing it since before the Boer War, when the Johannesburg mines called for daylight savings in order to give mineworkers more daylight recreational time. In 1952 the Johannesburg City Council even passed a motion endorsing its introduction, but it was never instituted.

In 1985 the town of Plettenberg Bay introduced “Plett-time”, but that was later abandoned due to the difficulties posed by the time difference between Plett and its neighbouring towns.

After more than 100 years of debate and discussion, there is surely no better time than the present, with our need to save as much energy as we can, to finally take the leap. Obviously it will take time to get used to it, and government will have to run a massive education campaign, but in the end we would stop wasting valuable daylight. The spinoffs for productivity, tourism and much more are so great; what are we waiting for?

Guy Lundy is the CEO of Accelerate Cape Town.  He is also the co-author of South Africa: Reasons to Believe and the co-editor of South Africa 2014: The Story of our Future.  He spent several years living and working on four continents before returning home to Cape Town.

Accelerate Cape Town is a business-led initiative aimed at bringing together stakeholders in the Cape Town region to develop and implement a long-term vision for sustainable, inclusive economic growth. It was started by a group of business leaders brought together by a common concern over the lack of pace and direction of change in the Cape. They agreed that a common long-term vision and future strategy were needed for the region, and that “big business” should play a leading role in developing and implementing them.

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