Whistler powers down for Earth Hour, recording biggest energy savings in B.C. 

The resort reduced energy use by 7.2 per cent during annual event

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - LIGHTS OUT  At the Fairmont, guests were treated to a candlelit dinner and a smoothie bar powered by stationary bikes.
  • photo by braden dupuis
  • LIGHTS OUT At the Fairmont, guests were treated to a candlelit dinner and a smoothie bar powered by stationary bikes.

It's the one time of year being left in the dark is a good thing.

For the second year in a row, Whistler was the No. 1 energy saver in the province, reducing energy use by 7.2 per cent during Earth Hour.

On Saturday, March 28, Whistler beat out 65 other B.C. communities for the win. Invermere came in a close second, dropping energy use by 6.7 per cent, while Clearwater was third, at four per cent. Squamish failed to register much of a mark, with a 0.3-per-cent drop, while Pemberton was not listed.

This year's savings were a full percentage point higher than last year, when the resort also topped the list for B.C.

For several years Whistler Blackcomb has been not only turning off the lights, but shutting down the main power switches at the bottom of both mountains, meaning everything located uphill is de-energized for a total of an hour and a half. The annual shutdown requires about a month's notice to ensure all contractors, cleaners and night crews are aware they'll be working in the pitch black.

"There have been a few hiccoughs over the years, but generally it all runs smoothly," wrote Whistler Blackcomb PR coordinator Jill Young in an email.

Over at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, where hotel staff and guests have been celebrating Earth Hour for several years, there were a few sustainable surprises to enjoy.

Candlelit dinners, acoustic guitars and backyard fire dancers were all on hand when the lights went off between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m.

There were also some pedal-powered smoothie machines.

"People really like it," said James Cowan, of People Power Productions, the company that provided the bikes.

"It's really innovative and it's quite simple. You've just got a blender that mounts on the back of the bike, you jump on, you make your smoothie and away you go."

In all, British Columbians saved 15-megawatt hours of electricity and reduced the provincial electricity load by 0.2 per cent, the lowest savings in the last eight years. B.C.'s best Earth Hour performance came in 2013, when a 1.95-per-cent reduction was achieved.

Earth Hour began as a single city initiative in Sydney, Australia, in 2007. Today, the event is recognized in 24 time zones across six continents.

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