Whistler reduces power consumption, but drops to 12th in Earth Hour rankings 

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Whistler's dropped eight spots on BC Hydro's annual Earth Hour roundup, which ranks municipalities by the amount of power they saved during the March 23 event.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) encourages governments and residents to turn their electricity off from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. to save power and raise awareness of climate change and the effect on sensitive species that are impacted by everything from oil spills to the loss of habitat.

In 2013, Whistler decreased its energy usage by a record seven per cent for the resort, while Pemberton reduced consumption by 5.9 per cent and ranked 14th on a list of almost 70 participating communities.

Whistler ranked fourth in B.C. in 2012 with a 5.6 per cent reduction in average energy use, while Pemberton — the winner in 2009 and 2010 — was second in the province with a reduction of 6.8 per cent.

Whistler was the top city or town on mainland B.C. when it came to reducing power as all 11 municipalities finishing ahead of the resort this year were on Vancouver Island.

Comox and Courtenay tied for first with a 9.8 per cent reductions. Lantzville finished one spot back of Whistler, which puts Pemberton second on the list for the mainland.

"I have no idea what they're (Vancouver Island municipaliies) doing, but it's something I'd be interested to find out so we can replicate their efforts next year," said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

She said she was pleased that Whistler was able to increase its power savings by 1.33 per cent, and pull ahead of Pemberton for the first time. "It was a good effort," she said.

Whistler's power-saving efforts included shutting off lights at the Meadow Park Sports Centre as well as heat tracing systems, shutting off lights at municipal buildings, turning off festive lighting and heat tracing in the village, and powering down the lights at Lost Lake Park and along the Valley Trail. The main event was a candlelit skate at Whistler Olympic Plaza.

As well, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler was a major contributor, serving candlelit dinners in hotel restaurants and setting up a bicycle-powered blender for guests and visitors — including Wilhelm-Morden — to make smoothies.

"They turned off a lot of their lights," she said. "

While Earth Hour is a symbolic gesture, the RMOW used the opportunity to point out some real year-round energy savings. In 2012, they reported that total energy consumptions — electricity and fuel — was 4,660 gigajoules lower than the previous year, while greenhouse gas emissions were at a their lowest point since reporting began in 2006.

Squamish finished lower down the list in 36th with a 2.9 per cent reduction, although that's an improvement of 1.2 per cent over last year. Like Whistler, the District of Squamish hosted a candlelit skate for the public, opening up Brennan Park arena for the event.

According to BC Hydro, B.C. as a whole reduced the provincial electricity load by 1.95 per cent, which is the equivalent of turning off over 10 million 12.5-watt LED bulbs. Vancouver's electricity load dropped by 2.4 per cent.

Since BC Hydro started to participate in the event in 2008, BC Hydro estimates that Earth Hour has resulted in energy savings of 500.27 megawatt hours, which is the equivalent of turning off 40 million 12.5-watt LED bulbs — and more than 200 million 60-watt bulbs.

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