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Switching off lights worldwide does more harm than good - expert

March 18, 2016, 22:42 UTC+3 TOMSK

"Earth Hour" is an annual international environmental campaign of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), aimed at drawing attention to the problem of preserving the planet's resources

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TOMSK, March 18. /TASS/. Switching off the lights for the environmental campaign "Earth Hour" is doing more harm than good, because it makes electricity more expensive, according to professor of the department of nuclear and thermal power plants of the Institute of Power Engineering of the Tomsk Polytechnic University Valery Litvak, quoted by the university’s press service.

"Earth Hour" is an annual international environmental campaign of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), aimed at drawing attention to the problem of preserving the planet's resources. At the same time for one hour people around the world switch off the lights, and the buildings - symbols of certain countries - switch off exterior decorative lighting.

"Earth Hour" is the most popular campaign in the human history. In 2015 more than 2 bln people from 172 countries participated in the event, including 20 mln Russians.

Saving energy ends up more expensive

"This event, in my opinion, based on the conviction "switched off the lights - done something good". In fact - this is not the case. All people in the power industry know that. Electrical power systems work well with constant load. The more constant the load schedule, the more cost efficient production of power," the university’s press service quoted the scientist.

According to him, rapid decline of turbine load occurs during a power outage. Power system will have to adapt to this new regime - to reduce the production of electricity. If the drop is significant, only hydroelectric power stations will be able to pick up the process, all the other stations simply will not be able to cope with the drop.

"But this is not all - because in an hour the light everywhere will be turned on. Stations will need to increase the load. Meanwhile, it is difficult to do at nuclear power plants, thermal power plants pick it up but the pace is not very fast. Again, the entire burden falls on hydroelectric power stations. So, we first unloaded generators and now load them again. To put it mildly, it is very stressful for the whole power complex. Hooking up turbo-generator into electrical network could be compared to such a complex process as childbirth," the professor said.

Therefore, according to him, there will be more harm than good from power outage around the world. "We just need to train ourselves to use energy more prudently. Turn off the lights leaving the house, not boiling a full kettle for just two cups of tea, not running washing machine for a pair of socks," Litvak said.

How much is enough for comfort?

The expert gave example of the 1980s, when the demand for TVs was rapidly growing in the Soviet Union. Since they were very energy-intensive, the central dispatch unit of the USSR Unified Energy System decided to calculate the potential demand for electricity in order to understand how to increase the capacity of power plants.

According to him, during a hockey match during the half-hour break, the network announcer asked viewers to turn off their TVs, saying that the power engineers needed to calculate how much electricity is consumed by television.

"A friend of mine worked in this unit. He said that in the first night of observation there was no reduction of electricity consumption. Experts could not understand why," he said.

On the second day, his friend came home watched the first period of the hockey game, then during a break turned the TV off and went to the kitchen. "He turned on the stove and understood the plan’s blunder - instead of the TV people used other electrical appliances during the breaks," the professor said.

Glowing runners and "dark" buildings

Meanwhile, "Earth Hour" on Saturday will be actively supported in Tomsk. In particular, the Tomsk State University will disable the backlight of the main university - one of the architectural symbols of the city, and the University grove. The lights of the regional administration building will also be switched off.

The Tomsk Polytechnic University organized a sport event - the residents of the city will run 2016 meters on the university’s stadium. Each participant will wear a glowing bracelet. Night races will be held in 25 cities. According to the instute, the organizers are planning to unite 20,000 participants from different cities to cover the distance equal to the equator - a little more than 40,000 km.

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