100 Years of Nova Scotian Weather Online and Interactive… and Then Some

I just finished recreating a Tableau “viz” that is a series of online, interactive dashboards with weather information for eight places in Nova Scotia from the past 100 years (1917-2016):

  • Halifax
  • Liverpool
  • Yarmouth
  • Greenwood
  • Halifax Airport
  • Amherst
  • Antigonish
  • Sydney

They are on the Tableau Public site under my profile listing all my vizzes so far. Not many but the start of something good!

I also have dedicated weather vizzes for:

from reasonably good data sets that existed so I didn’t have to kill myself getting all the data from nearby weather stations and cobbling them all together! I had over 1600 files for those 8 places! Well, Halifax didn’t have a great data set but since so many Nova Scotians live in the area, including me, I didn’t want to leave them out.

Nova Scotia Once Again Abysmal for Earth Hour (2010)

Earth Hour 2010 was yesterday, March 27, and just like in 2009, Nova Scotia was abysmal… almost as much as the results reporting from Nova Scotia Power Inc. (NSPI)

As the main energy supplier of Nova Scotia, NSPI was the designated reporter of results, like in 2009. Just like in 2009, all they reported a power drop number, with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) equivalent for “context”. I don’t doubt they chose it because it sounds impressive when the results weren’t, and I know they can’t be judgmental in reporting to be both, objective and not pan their customers. However, frankly, I expect more from a company that pushes smart meters and no doubt keeps statistical performance data up the ying yang river. They also have a communications department. I’m sure they can report in more detail, objectively, without plastering the general public they serve, and I’m going to call them out on that again this year.

[In 2010], Nova Scotia Power’s energy control centre reported an 18-megawatt reduction in power consumption between 8:30pm and 9:30pm on Saturday evening. This represents an equivalent savings of more than 1.4 million 13-watt compact florescent light bulbs.
— NSPI web page on Earth Hour 2010 results

So if NSPI isn’t going to give the proper analysis and context, I’ll do it for you.

First of all, the 18 megawatt (MW) reduction is an improvement from the 15 MW in 2009 [NSPI]. That we Nova Scotians should give ourselves a small hand for so let’s take a few seconds for that. Why I’m plastering the results will come a little later in the article.

I was not well enough this year to get out and take some pictures of HRM during Earth Hour last year. However, the CBC said our bridge lights were out. That, I know to be an improvement from last year.

It was also colder this year than last, by about 10 degrees Celcius. Lights only comprise a small percentage of our energy usage in such cold climates, of course. So the colder it gets, the less lights would matter. However, from what I can tell, the statistics measured a drop from hour to hour so the value could be attributed mostly to lights. For percentage impact, though, to give more context and comparison across Canada, this knowledge of lights’ percentage share of power usage is useful.

The reported percentage reduction for Halifax in 2009 was one percent (1%), based on 15 MW [Toronto Star for %, NSPI for MW]

Given it was much colder this year, meaning the energy usage base would have been larger, 18 MW would still likely be a 1% drop. It’d have been just 1.2% anyway, even if the temperature was the same as last year, insinuating the same energy usage for heating that would be the major source of the usage on an early spring night. Given it was that much colder this year, a 1% drop is a fair number by my books.

So how did Nova Scotia’s 1% drop compare to the rest of the country? That’s where we were abysmal.

Toronto recorded a drop of 10%, also at temperatures 10 degrees Celcius lower than last year, although they dropped from 15.1% last year. [Toronto Star]

Hey, if Toronto can do 10%, and they are a much larger population than our entire province of Nova Scotia, we can count ourselves abysmal in our efforts. To be fair, as environmental awareness increases, their big drop from 15.1% in 2009 earns them a disappointing rating in my books. It’s all about expectations and context, right?

That said, I’m really going dump on St John, New Brunswick, for not participating during Earth Hour.

“We didn’t really see that much for what we put into it [last year],” city spokesperson Leah Fitzgerald told the Telegraph Journal. She said non-essential lights are already turned off on weekends and overnight.
— Toronto Star

Wow! The environmentalists should be burning whoever made that decision at the stake… if only that didn’t increase CO2 emissions unnecessarily. They completely missed the point of awareness, and should take some accountability for the fact the city maybe didn’t do a good enough job. Did they think St John was the only city in which the light bulb came on regarding Earth Hour being ineffective when over 4,000 cities and over 1 billion people in 121 countries participated world wide? What brilliant environmental strategy and vision is St John known for world wide?

For the record, NB did record a noticeable dip in the power grid during Earth Hour last year, 20 MW [CBC] although it is about awareness, of course, not huge power reductions. It begets the follow-up power reduction from the awareness.

There were no reports yet for other cities, but another story cited Edmonton dropping 11% in 2009, while Calgary dropped 4% [CBC]. Edmonton has called out Calgary on that this year in a challenge which’s results should be interesting to see.

Now, I’m writing and taking those values at face value rather than be a cynic and questioning how much spin might be in them. However, there is no way the margin of error and/or spin could be big enough to make our 1% drop in Nova Scotia a worthy example or a good effort. The improvement is nice to see, but if you want to use Toronto’s 10% as the baseline example of a 100% mark, that’d be nice NS getting an improvement in marks from 10% to 12%. How much would you pat your kid on the back if his/her report cards improved that way?

On another note, the CBC story with NB’s power drop last year also stated

Organizers said the point isn’t to tally the amount of power saved over 60 minutes, but rather to involve as many people as possible to let governments know they are still failing to do enough to combat climate change.

Are they sure on that? How many of those people who participated would be happy if governments came in with actions to force them to change their behaviours for the sake of the environment? Whether regulatory actions to force the issue, or taxes or other incentives, I don’t think a lot of it would make people happy. The extent government would have to go to for more people to ride public transit, for example, would be ridiculous if it were to have significant impact. People will only be happy when they make their own decisions to change their behaviour, and they have to take some accountability for that. They should ask themselves how much are they not doing that they could be doing without government intervention, and see the relative difference they can make just in their own lives, like a reduction in gas or power bill. Then imagine that of society, rather than talking about governments doing more.

Sure, there is lots of room for governments to be doing more on climate change, but that is mostly on an industrial scale. There is some work on the societal level, too, of course. However, at that level, people have to step up more and be accountable rather than constantly holding government accountable to that degree. In psychology, they say admitting you have a problem is the first step to overcoming it. I think people, in large, have to admit this first before they’re going to get anywhere. They have to admit they are the problem when it comes to climate change on a societal level. That includes me, of course, but I’ve been working to improve for many years now, and always believe I could be doing more.

Furthermore of psychology, that’s what it’s going to take government to change society’s behaviour. Sure, regulations, tax incentives, information and the like, will have some impact. But I believe if you want to change people’s behaviour, you have to really know how they behave. A lot of social marketing theory is based upon this, being the systematic application of marketing, along with other concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioral goals for a social good. So it then comes down to this, people, as a society:

Admit you have a problem and solve it yourselves, or government will scope your mind and “persuade” you to. 🙂

I’m using sinister language for humour, of course, but it ain’t far from the truth that is never easy to swallow.

I’ll be back with more Earth Hour results as they come online.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 9.3

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Halifax, Dartmouth and Nova Scotia Pathetic in Earth Hour 2009… Watt Hour???

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Please click here for the 2010 Earth Hour Results

Nova Scotians showed our traditionalism at its best with nothing short of a pathetic effort during Earth Hour in 2009. Pictures from Halifax-Dartmouth shown below provide some evidence. Statistics from Nova Scotia Power Inc. (NSPI) were as dark as Nova Scotia should have been, obscured in ambiguity without context. By action, Nova Scotians’ response to participation in Earth Hour was a resounding Watt Hour?

According to NSPI, Nova Scotian power usage dropped “15 megawatts or the equivalent of 1,153,845 13 watt compact fluorescent light bulbs” (CFLs). No other context was given so let’s start with some questions.

NSPI Earth Hour 2009 Results screen capture, provided because the link in the text may not yield the quoted information long after Mar 28 2009 because its URL indicated it was for the top story regarding Energy Efficiency, not a dedicated page to Earth Hour. The next story in the category would conveniently sweep this one into the dark matters of cyberspace.

NSPI Earth Hour 2009 Results screen capture, provided because the above link in the text may not yield the quoted information long after Mar 28 2009. The story's URL indicated it was for the top story regarding Energy Efficiency, not Earth Hour. The next story in the category would bump this one elsewhere.

First, dropped from what? A seasonal average? This date last year? And what percentage was saved? 15 megawatters (MW) out of 1,500MW rather than 150MW are very different outcomes (1% versus 10%).

Mar 30 update: It was a one percent (1%) reduction [Toronto Star, Mar 30 4:30 AM].

Second, it was a relatively balmy 2 to 5 degrees Celcius at 9 pm tonight, the warmest in a while and well over the -2.6 degree Celcius mean temperature for March 2008 [Environment Canada]. How much of that power saving was due to less heat required rather than lights going out? NSPI can’t be expected to report this precisely, but they should have data to estimate it. If they don’t, Nova Scotians should worry.

Third, big buildings and structures like the bridges in Halifax-Dartmouth probably accounted for a good chunk of the 15MW reduction. Their lights aren’t exactly small power consumers. Despite being in this all together, perhaps something about what the general public contributed would help to give an idea of the effort. NSPI must recognize residential and commercial accounts in their billings. However, to give credit where it’s due, NSPI did get the information up online just hours after Earth Hour was over.

Fourth, was this progress? Fortunately, I found last year’s result to be 8MW in reduction [Cape Breton Post] so this year’s 15MW reduction was almost twice as good. For that, let’s take a second to say “hip hip hurrah”, but then move on because looking at the bigger context and rating progress against our Canadian neighbours (see below), our results were pathetic.

Using NSPI’s figures, for our population of about 0.95 million, I can calculate that each Nova Scotian saved about 16W during Earth hour. Watts isn’t the proper way to express energy savings scientifically, by the way, but we’ll save the science for another time and just work with it as is for simplicity of comparison.

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How did Nova Scotia do compared to the rest of Canada for Earth Hour?

Ontario, outside of Toronto, saved 920 MW or 6%, from typical demand, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and CTV Toronto. At a population of 12.9 million, that’s 71W per person for the hour or 4.5X the amount Nova Scotians saved. Temperature ranged from 7 to -10 degrees Celcius so they probably didn’t save as much for heat as we did, either, with us at 2 to 5 degrees.

Live reports on the CBC television at the time of this post (1:40AM Sun Mar 29) claimed Toronto chipped in for 452 MW or 82W per person for the hour if you use the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) population of 5.5 million instead of 2.48 million for just Toronto [City of Toronto]. CTV Toronto puts this at a 15.2% reduction, up from 8.7% last year. If you use the latter population figure, they saved 182W per person for the hour, which would not be surprising given the large number of businesses and landmarks which are major consumers of power at night who participated. Regardless, that’s 5.1X or 11.5X the amount Nova Scotians saved, pending the number you choose, which is irrelevant for comparative purposes because of the big gap in either case. It was 11 degrees Celcius in Toronto at the time, much warmer than our 2 to 5 degrees or so, but that wouldn’t be nearly enough to account for the disparity between the two performances. Nor will I believe any claim that denizens at the “centre of the universe” using more power than the typical Nova Scotians as being sufficient to close the gap much, either.

Mar 30 update: Nova Scotia sat at a 1% reduction, but so did Newfoundland and Labrador, and the much touted environmentally friendly British Columbia. Calgary reported a small drop but was not quantified. Manitoba saw an increase but did not officially participate to get the word and encouragement out to the public. It was also rather cold that night at -8 degree Celcius and -13 windchill. Temperatures in other places were not reported for consideration of heat influence from Earth Hour night compared to other years or regular patterns [Toronto Star, Mar 30 4:30 AM].

Despite these relative comparisons to show we had “company” in our performance range, it does nothing to change my view on Halifax, Dartmouth and Nova Scotia’s performance. We can definitely do much better and should strive for it in years after this [ some tips for greater reductions ].

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Pictures from Halifax-Dartmouth showed very little noticeable effort

Seeing very little noticeable effort during Earth Hour from my downtown apartment window, I ventured up Citadel Hill, the high point in the landscape of Halifax and Dartmouth, to see if I just had a bad “sampling”. I also walked around the hill and downtown a bit and saw I didn’t. About the only noticeable structures I saw turned off from the hill were:

  • Angus MacDonald bridge floodlights turned off;
  • Nova Scotia Power building turned off for the most part;
  • City Hall; and
  • Aliant Building.

Good for them all, but can you believe that was pretty much it? The Metro Centre’s advertising board was lit up brightly as usual, practically lighting up its side of Citadel Hill. The BDC building, Homburg building, Town Clock and such were also all lit up. Participation in apartment buildings I could see weren’t great, either. However, I only documented with pictures of Dartmouth below because I did not have the night lens required for a wide view of Halifax, where you couldn’t identify the “guilty” parties. I wasn’t out to point fingers.

However, Ryan Taplin’s photo in the Metro [Mar 30] of the Downtown Halifax skyline showed it was beautifully LIT UP like a Christmas Tree during Earth Hour! UTTERLY DISGRACEFUL!

But before I present the pictures, I’m going to challenge Nova Scotians to do better next year because, frankly, I’m ashamed! If you’re Nova Scotian and reading this, you should be, too, even if you did your part like I did! I shared some tips for what to do, and other Canadians also shared their activities on the CBC. And I’m also going to call out NSPI to provide better reporting instead of sounding like a politician.

Compare the pictures below to CBC’s Toronto Earth Hour gallery of what a truly participating location should look like during Earth Hour and see the difference!

Click on all photos below to see enlarged versions.

What were your observations for Nova Scotia’s Earth Hour efforts?

Looking at Downtown Dartmouth, note the MacDonald bridge flood lights off during Earth Hour and on again after it

Looking at Downtown Dartmouth, note the MacDonald bridge flood lights off during Earth Hour and on again after it. Notice the minimal difference and building in the foreground practically all lit up. By fluke, a piece of Caution tape was fluttering in the wind and got in the way of the bottom photo at left, causing a slightly dark strip where there should not have been one... but I can't redo the photo now.

Dartmouth North End, dockyards and MacDonald bridge, showing the MacDonald bridge floodlights off and on

Dartmouth North End, dockyards and MacDonald bridge, showing the MacDonald bridge floodlights off and on during and after Earth Hour. The slight increase in brightness from the bottom photo is an exposure error, not that the lights were brighter after Earth Hour.

Looking towards the road to Cole Harbour and Eastern Passage during and after Earth Hour. There may not be many homes here, but whatever the sources of the lights, there was practically no difference during Earth Hour. (click to enlarge)

Looking towards the road to Cole Harbour and Eastern Passage during and after Earth Hour. There may not be many homes here, but whatever the sources of the lights, there was practically no difference during Earth Hour.

Dartmouth straight across from downtown Halifax, as seen between the NSPI (Duke Tower) and CIBC buildings from atop Citadel Hill during and after Earth Hour (click to enlarge)

Dartmouth straight across from downtown Halifax, as seen between the NSPI and CIBC buildings from atop Citadel Hill during and after Earth Hour. The top photo was over exposed to make it seem the lights were brighter during Earth Hour, but there was no difference.

Halifax

Looking to the south side of Dartmouth, just north of the refineries in Dartmouth which, of course, were not shut down. Nothing here seemed turned off, either.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 8.9