E-Day: Fudge or Fraud?

There is something supremely odd about the results published on the E-Day website.

The Energy Saving Day (E-Day) has been a UK-based “experiment” running between 6PM GMT on Feb 27 to 6PM GMT on Feb 28, “to show how even small energy saving measures can be made to add up, and potentially play a part in tackling climate change.”

Fact is that nothing has added up, and consumption has been higher than expected all through the day. At 4:21GMT it was showing “current savings” of -4.8% and “total savings” of -1.6%.

That is, the UK was actually “wasting” energy, compared to the predicted values according to National Grid.

At 13:42GMT, “current savings” was -1.6%, and “total savings” -0.8%. No sign of any “total savings of money, energy and carbon associated with E-Day” that were supposed to be “calculated and made available in time of the evening news bulletins“.

On the website it is also displayed a chart of ongoing energy consumption, with a green line for the actual values and a red line for the predicted ones. 

Having followed that on and off for most of the day, I only noticed around 4pm finally, for the first time since the beginning of the E-Day the green curve dipping just a little bit below the red one.

For the rest of the day, the green line was consistently and evidently above the red line: that means, the UK has kept consuming more energy than usual, thereby nullifying the whole point of the E-Day.

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Imagine my surprise then checking the site at 6PM today (officially the closing time of the e-day) to see “current savings” of -1.5% and

(a) “total savings” of -0.1%

(b) green and red lines almost exactly superimposed, with the red one slightly higher above the other in two points, and the green one shooting up only at the very end

The above is simply not possible…the only way for savings to go from -0.8% at 1342GMT to -0.1% at 1800GMT would have been for actual consumption to be significantly below the predicted one.

And the graph does not show at all the giant 4:21GMT wastage of 4.8%.

The only explanation is that the E-Day organizers have retroactively moved the “predicted” red line up just enough to show a negligible difference with the actual “consumed” green line.

Fudge or fraud? Let’s see what they report:

E-Day did not succeed in cutting the UK’s electricity demand. The drop in temperature between Wed 27 Feb and Thurs 28 Feb days probably caused this, as a result of more lights and heating being left on than were originally predicted. The National Grid refined their 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. Thank you to everyone who helped me or left something off specially as their contribution to E-Day, and this Leave It Off experiment. Please enjoy E-Day’s solution, video and science sections which all worked well. Warmest regards, Matt

So they admit they have changed the rules on-the-fly. But blaming the temperatures doesn’t appear a smart move. How are they supposed to demonstrate “how even small energy saving measures can be made to add up” if all it takes is a minor “drop in temperature” (if one indeed has happened!) to nullify every effort?

The organizers have said they were hoping for +3% savings. National Grid must have “refined their assessments” by around 2%, and the almost absolute coincidence between the final green and red lines looks very very suspicious.

I am not even sure the UK experienced as a whole a “drop in temperature” (London definitely did not). And how come nobody thought nor said beforehand a thing about possible variations due to temperature changes?

Let’s leave aside the “solution, video and science sections which all worked well” shall we. Is that some kind of a joke?

Obviously a lot of work has gone into organising the E-Day: if it has been an abysmal failure on all fronts (and it has), that should be a major learning point (nobody cares? switch-offs are less important than thought?).

Otherwise, it’s all a touchy-feely web equivalent of snake oil.