Lights on, power use up for Earth Hour

Last updated 22:30 30/03/2008

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It was  far from lights out during Earth Hour in Wellington, with many landmark buildings in the city glowing like beacons through the rain.

The international Earth Hour campaign called for residents, councils and businesses to switch off lights between 8pm and 9pm on Saturday to raise awareness of climate change.

In Christchurch, New Zealand's official host city for Earth Hour, lights on major landmarks - including Christchurch Cathedral - buildings, private homes, and up to 60 local businesses were turned off for an hour and power consumption dropped by 12.8 per cent, which is more than twice what organisers were hoping for.

In contrast, power usage was higher than average in the Wellington region during the "lights out" hour and The Dominion Post photographed several landmarks around the city including the Town Hall, Parliament Buildings, the Cenotaph, and the Victoria University Law School, that were all brightly lit between 8pm and 9pm.

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast said the city was not an official participant in the initiative this year.

"There was no marketing money, we came into it late so we didn't have any support to market it to the community," she said.

She earlier said that the council would lead by example and turn off lights.

Lights in trees at Oriental Bay and Civic Square were switched off and, while allowing for public safety, the council had turned off external lighting at swimming pools, libraries, recreation centres and other council-owned buildings.

The Town Hall lights could have been left on because there was an event being held inside, she said.

Next year, when Wellington is an official participant in the Earth Hour event, she hopes the council can do more.

A spokeswoman for Speaker Margaret Wilson said Parliamentary Service was aware of the Earth Hour initiative but it had not been asked to take part.

On Saturday night more lights were on than usual at Parliament for the safety and security of guests attending a function at the Beehive.

Transpower spokeswoman Rebecca Wilson said power consumption on Saturday night during Earth Hour was 335 megawatts compared to an average of 328 megawatts for the previous two Saturdays.

It was difficult to pinpoint the cause of extra pressure on the national grid.

"It was pretty wet and yucky here Saturday night - people may have had heaters on."

Usage was also above average in Auckland and nationwide, despite a noticeable decrease in Christchurch.

About 380 cities in 35 countries around the world, including Suva, Sydney, San Francisco, Toronto, Dublin, Bangkok and Copenhagen, powered down for Earth Hour as their time zones reached 8pm.

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- The Dominion Post

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