GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. – This weekend we once again spring forward, and move our clocks ahead one hour on Sunday. Congress moved up Daylight Saving Time with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, giving us a few more weeks to ponder a lost hour of sleep, and an extra hour of daylight at the end of the day.
Tim Smith, Director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, told KARE11 the United States first instituted Daylight Saving Time during World War I.
“It was set up as a conservation effort,” Smith said, “to redirect power and energy to wartime activities.”
Smith said the nation took a break from the practice after the war, but called it up for action again during World War II. After that, it stuck.
What makes sense to save energy in the early to mid-1900’s doesn’t always fit for the 21st century.
“Lighting has become much more efficient,” Smith pointed out, meaning keeping the lights off isn’t saving us a whole lot of power. In fact, we might be using more power in some regions of the country where a longer day means a hot house when people return home after work.
“And so as everyone gets home from work, and turns on the stove, and turns up the air conditioning, and fires up the TV, we have more electricity on the grid,” Smith said.
Those peak demand times are also when power is priced highest, further negating any “savings” DST might bring.
Smith says a U.S. Department of Energy study in 2008 did find a net savings on power nationwide through Daylight Saving Time – approximately 0.03 percent. Another study, focused on the state of Indiana, and found an increase in power usage during DST of approximately one percent.
That leaves the question of whether we are saving anything by changing the time still up in the air.