Isles of Scilly power down for E-day

Porthcressa Beach in Hugh Town, St Marys, Isles of Scilly, where islanders are taking part in an energy-saving experiment. Photograph: Richard Sowersby/Rex Features

Porthcressa Beach in Hugh Town, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, where islanders are taking part in an energy-saving experiment. Photograph: Richard Sowersby/Rex Features

Many people believe England’s westernmost point to be Land’s End. The clue’s in the name. But travel 28 miles west of Land’s End and you hit – as many sailors have literally done over the centuries – the sublimely beautiful Isles of Scilly, which boasts the UK’s southernmost point and is also one of the world’s premier sites for wreck diving. The honour of westernmost point goes to Rockall, an uninhabited islet far out in the Atlantic Ocean, although it’s best not to go on about it too much as Iceland, Ireland and Denmark lay claim to it too.

The Isles of Scilly’s relative isolation and microclimate makes them a wonderful holiday destination, but their distance from the mainland also affords them the chance to take part in an interesting experiment. Tomorrow, the islanders – some 2,000 people – will conduct, according to the organisers, the “first coordinated attempt by a community to reduce their electricity use and to have the effects of their efforts measured in real-time”.

The event is being called E-day 2009 and it is the culmination of the Isles of Scilly Earth summit, which took place over the weekend and saw “international, national, and local islanders talk about the impact of climate change and human activity on their island”.

This is the plan:

E-day will involve everyone on the Isles of Scilly being asked to switch off electrical items which do not need to be on, so that collective energy saving can be measured. The energy savings achieved by a family, the school and the community on the Isles of Scilly will be compared with the baseline conditions simultaneously experienced across the UK.

The fact that a single cable carries electricity to the Scillys from the mainline makes it all the easier to measure the energy used on the islands over the course of the day – something that the E-Day organisers admitted was a struggle to achieve during last year’s event in which they tried to measure the energy use reduction across the whole of the UK on a particularly cold February day.

It led to an admirably honest assessment by organiser (and founder) Matt Prescott:

E-Day 2008 did not succeed in cutting the UK’s electricity demand. The drop in temperature between Wednesday 27 February and Thursday 28 February probably caused this, as a result of more lights and heating being left on than was originally predicted. The National Grid refined its assessments, based on actual weather data, during Thursday afternoon but I am afraid that E-day did not achieve the scale of public awareness or participation needed to have a measurable effect. I will do my best to learn the relevant lessons for next time.

The hope is that this year’s event will be a success with its focused, localised approach and, crucially, the support of the island community. Dr Prescott will be posting a blog about how the day went on later this week, but if you’re a Scillonian please do tell us what you’ve got planned for the day.

More widely, let us know what you think about E-day, Earth Hour and similar campaigns: do they help to raise awareness about energy-saving measures?

Isles of Scilly power down for E-day

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