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L.A. County calling for lights-out hour

By Susannah Rosenblatt (Los Angeles Times) - January 1, 2007

Following San Francisco’s lead, Los Angeles County and city officials are urging people, businesses and government to switch off nonessential lights for one hour next month to save energy.

Led by Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke and City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, the proposed effort asks Angelenos to simultaneously go dark between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, as San Franciscans do the same. Local officials are expected to vote on the plan next week.

At the original event in Sydney, Australia, in March, 2.2 million people cut the lights, causing a 10% drop in electricity use. The so-called Earth Hour reduced 25 tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to taking nearly 49,000 cars off the road for 60 minutes, organizers said.

“It’s a great opportunity to conserve,” Burke said, “a great [symbol] of people coming together.”

Although San Francisco’s energy-saving event has been in the works for six months, with cooperation from city officials and the chamber of commerce to black out the Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica Pyramid and Alcatraz, among other landmarks, Los Angeles officials hope to get the word out in a matter of weeks. They’ll use public service announcements, advertising at public facilities and partnerships with local universities. Plus, there are plans for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Southern California Edison to distribute energy-efficient light bulbs at city and county facilities, said Karly Katona, a deputy for Burke.

“This effort is really about public education,” Greuel said. She hopes it will encourage people to “think twice about leaving the kitchen light on at night.” She estimates the hour of darkness could cut energy use across the county by about 10%.

The idea is to show people that a simple action can affect climate change and global warming, said Brian Scott, director of operations for the Lights Out effort in San Francisco and nationwide. “It’s not this insurmountable thing,” he said. “Wherever this message can get out, it’s a good thing.”

Although officials still are finalizing which public buildings will join in the voluntary blackout, possible candidates include City Hall, the county Hall of Administration, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, DWP headquarters, the Port of Los Angeles and the multicolored pylons at Los Angeles International Airport.

“I think it will have a big visual impact,” Katona said.

The blackout effort also encourages residents to replace incandescent lights with more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. The county has spent $30 million to install energy-efficient lighting in its buildings.

More than 100 cities have contacted San Francisco organizers, wanting to plan similar events; a nationwide lights-out hour is planned for March 29. More information on the L.A. event can be found at www.lightsoutla.org.