Energy Saving (Daylight) Bill

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 10:33 am on 26th January 2007.

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Photo of David Kidney David Kidney PPS (Rt Hon David Miliband, Secretary of State), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 10:33 am, 26th January 2007

I recognise that argument. If the Bill were successful, and if a Scottish Parliament were considering whether to keep to the time zone in England, it would take that factor into account.

A third, but still incomplete artificial change, was the adoption of daylight saving time. The hon. Member for South Suffolk mentioned the first great campaigner in this country, William Willett, who produced, published and distributed at his own expense the pamphlet, "Waste of Daylight". He wanted to provide more time for exercise in the open air at the end of each day.

It is now fashionable on the Labour Benches to be proud of and respectful towards Winston Churchill. He certainly had a good turn of phrase. At the beginning of the 20th century, in debates on the early Bills, he said that William Willett did not propose a change from natural time to artificial time, but rather that we substitute a convenient standard of artificial time for an inconvenient one. That puts our proposals in context.

We are proposing not to add more daylight, but to provide more usable hours of daylight, which was the original motivation for such proposals. The first time that nations adopted daylight saving time was during a great challenge to the whole world: world war one. Many countries in Europe and in other continents—eventually 31 countries in four continents—adopted daylight saving time due to economic pressures. Their war efforts required more usable daylight hours. Although the UK never abandoned daylight summer time, we adopted double summer time during the second world war for increasingly longer times between 1941 and 1944, which gave us, in effect, what the Bill would provide. At that time, the National Farmers Union registered the strongest possible protest to the change.

In modern times, in America in the 1950s and 1960s, for example, we have seen that without a co-ordinated move to daylight saving time, there is clock chaos, as Time said. We have experimented with changing our time to try to make better use of daylight hours. There was a three-year experiment from 1968 when we adopted what we called British standard time, which was Greenwich mean time plus one hour all year round. Then, at the height of the oil crisis in 1973, the United States adopted daylight saving time all year round under the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act 1973—a two-year experiment. Of course, the European Union has weighed in to make the time at which we put the clocks forward and back each year uniform across the EU. Most recently, the US adopted the Energy Policy Act 2005, which from this year onwards changes the times at which the clocks are put forward. It will now be on the second Sunday in March, and the clocks will be put back on the first Sunday in November. Those are some examples of countries legislating to change their hours.

My reasons for supporting the Bill reflect those put forward by the hon. Member for South Suffolk: energy saving and climate change; road safety; trade and industry; and health and generally feeling good. Energy is the most important, as reflected in the title of the hon. Gentleman's Bill. The resulting gain should be the greatest with respect to energy.

When our clocks were first put forward for daylight saving time in 1916, Parliament appointed a summer time Committee to evaluate the effect of doing so. A year later, it reported a 20 per cent. reduction in power for electric lighting equal to 1 per cent. of total coal use for the whole year. The next time that daylight saving time was adopted widely around the world was during world war two, but I have been unable to find any formal evaluations of the energy savings that occurred then.

I move forward to the 1968 experiment in this country and the subsequent Home Office and Scotland Office review of British standard time in 1970. That contained a report from the power industry saying that there was a shift in electricity demand from evening to morning which, if continued, would allow a saving in the capacity required for the evenings—the peak demand time—equivalent to one whole power station and a capital cost of about £100 million. That paper was by the Central Electricity Generating Board—the precursor of today's National Grid—and the hon. Member for South Suffolk confirmed that, in his discussions with today's National Grid Company, those arguments still stand. It is important for us to take that into consideration.

Let us think why the United States adopted daylight saving time all year round in 1973. It was because of the oil and energy crisis. The US Department of Transportation analysed the effects of the first year of adopting that time all year round and concluded that it probably resulted in a decrease in electricity consumption in the order of 0.75 per cent. for January and February and 1 per cent. for March and April.

In 2001, the state of California appointed an energy commission to look into the problem. We should remember that there was such a crisis there at the time that they could not even keep the lights on, which shows how crucial energy is to a modern society. The commission conducted a study that is reported in a Library research paper for the Bill. It states on page 20:

"Both Winter Daylight Saving Time...and Summer-season Double Daylight Saving Time would probably save marginal amounts of electricity—around 3,400 MegaWatt hours...a day in winter, (one half of one per cent. of winter electricity use) and around 1,500 MWh a day during the summer season (one fifth of one per cent. of summer-season use)."

Crucially, it describes the important shift from the peak evening demand to low and cheaper morning demand that is equivalent to a 3.4 per cent. change in total energy demand. David Prerau, the author of the book I mentioned, describes that as "peak shaving", which is becoming increasingly significant around the world.

As we continued to reflect in this country on whether to move on again with summer time, a Green Paper was issued in 1989, "Summer Time: A Consultation Document" and the CEGB said that a permanent British standard time by shifting peak demand from evening to morning might obviate the need for one whole power station—consistent with my earlier point. Furthermore, the US Energy Policy Act 2005, driven again by high oil prices, included a requirement for the Department of Energy to assess the actual contribution to energy conservation that the measure makes and report it to Congress. That is an echo of the proposal in the Bill to set up a review of the experiment, so that the facts will be available by the time we have to decide whether to make the change permanent.

In my discussion with David Prerau, he said that most countries around the world—about 70—now operate daylight saving time and that the principal argument used to justify the change is energy. He says that the UK has been unusual in the past in making its principal argument road safety rather than energy.

Related to energy, of course, is climate change. In all our previous debates about changing the clocks in this country, climate change was probably not a large factor. Today, most politicians would describe climate change as the greatest threat facing ourselves and the world in our deliberations, so climate change becomes a much more pressing consideration for the debate.

There is not a great deal of research available to date to support my assertion that climate change will be more effectively tackled if we adopt the Bill. Some research was conducted on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by the British Research Establishment, but it is not particularly encouraging for this argument. It was only limited research centred on Manchester and based on information from its weather centre. It concluded that, if we adopted the equivalent of single/double summer time, although there would be some reductions in energy in some sectors, there would be increases in others and an overall slight net increase. That is disappointing. However, the hon. Member for South Suffolk mentioned more recent research by Cambridge university, which reported in this week's Nature magazine. It is worth referring to it, because it is the most recent and most direct research on the subject.

On page 344, Nature states:

"But the DST scheme can be taken further, argues Elizabeth Garnsey, an innovation researcher at the University of Cambridge UK, who has evaluated the probable effects of the proposed changes to the British system."

She is reported as saying:

"Countries are starting to realize that their day-light-saving policies haven't really been saving daylight. Moving the clocks forward yet another hour would produce a slew of benefits... The reduced need for lighting in the afternoons could save around £485 million... a year, as well as 170,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide."

Nature spoke up strongly against daylight saving time 95 years ago, but now its editorial says:

"To fight climate change, we do not need to alarm ourselves with clocks of doom. Instead we just need to use our time to good purpose. And the reduction in energy use to be expected from single-double daylight saving in Britain—or from the extended single-daylight saving that is to be implemented in the United States this year—will be a marginal, but nonetheless welcome step in the right direction."

I do not wish to over-claim the benefits for climate change, but I assert that there are some benefits to be gained and that we should seek to secure them. A three-year trial would settle the matter one way or the other.