Early U.S. Daylight Savings a bust in power savings

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The early onset of Daylight Savings Time in the United States this year may have been for naught.

High voltage power lines in the California desert in a file photo. The move to turn the clocks forward by an hour on March 11 rather than the usual April date was mandated by the government as an energy-saving effort. REUTERS/Fred Greaves

The move to turn the clocks forward by an hour on March 11 rather than the usual early April date was mandated by the U.S. government as an energy-saving effort.

But other than forcing millions of drowsy American workers and school children into the dark, wintry weather three weeks early, the move appears to have had little impact on power usage.

“We haven’t seen any measurable impact,” said Jason Cuevas, spokesman for Southern Co., one of the nation’s largest power companies, echoing comments from several large utilities.

That may come as no surprise to the Energy Department, which last year predicted only modest energy savings because the benefits of the later daylight hour would be offset.

For example, households may draw less electricity for lights at night, but will use more power in the early in the day as they wake to darker and chillier mornings.

Residential lighting comprises only about 10 percent of the average homeowner’s electricity use, while air conditioners, heaters and refrigerators consume much more power. Washers, dryers and plasma televisions are also bigger users of electricity than lighting.

“There might have been a small increase in morning lighting, and a slightly larger decline in evening lighting usage,” said a spokeswoman at New Jersey utility Public Service Enterprise Group Inc, but that modest decline will have no impact on its overall sales or earnings.

The U.S. Congress will evaluate the effects of the earlier switch to Daylight Saving Time.

Perhaps the biggest impact was felt by the computer users and Blackberry addicts who had to scramble for software patches to keep their digital devices on the right time.

Dan Hermann, a computer programmer in New York, updated his gadgets to the new daylight savings time three weeks ago, only to have them automatically shift forward by another hour on Sunday, the previous start date for daylight savings time.

“I panicked. I thought I was late for church,” said Hermann.

Even without an energy savings benefit, some Americans gave a good review to the new Daylight Savings Time.

“I love that you can leave work and it’s still day light,” said Todd Knapp, an avid runner and consultant in New York.