For some Earth Hour is more than just turning off the lights

What’s it take to turn the lights off in a downtown Toronto building? Bring in a team of operators being paid overtime to manually work the breaker system – and give them plenty of time to prepare.

Energy consumers in downtown Toronto, including Manulife Centre and Scotia Plaza, will participate in Earth Hour this evening by turning their lights off from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

The Australian branch of the World Wildlife Fund founded Earth Hour in 2007. It went worldwide last year as a campaign meant to demonstrate people’s desire to prevent climate change and to lower humanity’s impact on the environment.

Romeo Raffiek, operations manager for Manulife Centre, said that only 50 per cent of the centre’s lighting can be turned off through the central computer system.

“There’s a lot of other lighting that we have to physically shut breakers off,” he said. “So we’re bringing some guys in, some operators for overtime, and they’ll be on site at 7:30.”

Manulife Centre will shut down its interior and exterior lighting and the signs on the exterior of the building.

“We’re just complying with the WWF obviously,” Raffiek said. “And it’s just being energy conscious and ethically responsible.”

Longer term plans at the centre include upgrading the lighting computer to be able to control more of the lighting as needed and upgrading the elevator system to be more energy efficient.

Scotia Plaza will also be shutting their lights off, and also has many energy efficiency initiatives that are underway. These include a water cooling system and energy reduction during times of high energy prices.

“We are definitely interested in saving energy. We’re not just looking for an hour; we’re looking long term,” said Bob Bouvier, operations director at Scotia Plaza.

Although the plans at Scotia Plaza involve long term energy efficiency goals, Bouvier explained the importance of joining Toronto in Earth Hour.

“We have always been a part of the city, for us to turn out and not participate would be shameful,” he said. “This building will participate in Earth Hour just like everybody else.”

The WWF acknowledges that the energy savings during the hour is not the point of the effort.

“In reality, lighting uses a very small amount of energy,” the WWF says on their website “Earth Hour is about demonstrating how individuals can take action everyday to help fight climate change and making a visual impact, not the energy savings for the hour.”

Filed by Andrew Hood