Time is Energy

Time is energy, or at least that’s the theory.

On Friday, July 21, Congress approved an energy bill which included a motion to extend daylight-savings time by four weeks (originally the bill intended to extend daylight-savings by eight weeks.) Historically, daylight-savings time begins on the first Sunday in April and runs through the last Sunday in October. The new energy bill will change daylight-savings to begin the second Sunday in March and end the first weekend in November. The change is intended to go into place in March 2007.

The hope is that the change will help conserve energy by requiring less lighting in the early evening during the extended daylight-savings period. As an IT professional I am left wondering how many of our systems are going to require patching to compensate for the change. This is no Y2K, but think about all the systems out there which will require updating. International airlines are already expressing concerns about scheduling international flights after the change.

What does this really mean? In 2007 we will be changing our clocks ahead on March 11th instead of April 1st. On March 10th of that year sunrise will be at 6:08 a.m. and sunset will be at 5:46 p.m. March 11th, after the change, sunrise will be at 7:06 a.m. and sunset will be 6:47 p.m. Similarly we would “fall-back” on November 4th when sunset will go from 5:36 p.m. on the 3rd to 4:34 on the 4th.

Of course most of us have the lights on before sunset, but you get the idea. Energy savings aside it seems like this could provide an interesting study on seasonal affective disorder. It may also prove to prevent accidents by allowing more people to commute home in daylight.

While I will probably enjoy the extra daylight, I wonder if the energy savings will even remotely offset the technical and political costs of this change.

With people commuting to work further than ever before, perhaps it is time to start considering a tax credit, for both employees and employers, for telecommuting some days of the week or working four 10 hour days instead of five 8 hour days. What would be the energy savings if we could cut the commuting costs and environmental impact of one out of ten people by 20%? That sounds better than an extra hour of daylight to me.

WebExhibits.org has a great exhibit for some more reading and history on Daylight-Savings Time.

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