The clocks go back this weekend, which means along with the extra hour in bed it’s another chance to raise that old chestnut: should the UK ditch do away with tradition and move time forward by an hour permanently.
A report published today by the Policy Studies Institute on the implications this would have for Scotland, argues that it should. Amongst the benefits put forward by author Dr Mayer Hillman of Westminster University is that it could significantly impact on energy use in buildings.
At present, lighting accounts for about 13% of all domestic electricity consumption and around 30% of electricity used in offices and public buildings.
Putting the clocks forward an hour in the winter and summer would lower this demand. The argument being that most people get up well after sunrise for around nine months of the year, and so do not need artificial lighting in the morning, but they are highly likely to go to bed after sunset throughout the year, making their demand for artificial light in the evening sensitive to the time. The report claims it could shave 9% off the electrical demand for lighting in Scotland.
The argument for heating is less clear cut. A study undertaken by the Building Research Establishment in 2005 concluded that advancing the clocks by one hour could actually lead to a small increase in heating energy in non-domestic buildings.
The BRE findings were based on limited data and this is part of the problem with any argument for moving the clocks forward. Tory MP, Rebecca Harris, has reportedly put forward a private members bill urging the government to carry out an inquiry into the benefits of moving the clocks forwards, while MPs on the climate change committee at Westminster are taking evidence about the potential impact it would have on emissions and global warming. No doubt the debate will be revisited next March.