Every year, like clockwork, Britons across the UK dutifully reset their clocks to go forward an hour in March (British Summer Time) and back to Greenwich Mean Time in October. The same change in the US occurs two weeks earlier. The desired effect of this change is to make the days longer, with more daylight in the summer evenings. The same change in the US occurs two weeks earlier. Although many have valid arguments against BST, (not to mention the twice yearly interruption to our sleep schedules), others argue that there are significant benefits to the British economy of changing to BST, and sticking to it.
What do people say who are not in favour of BST say?
There are however, some legitimate reasons presented by those who aren’t in favour of British Summer Time that might surprise you.
- The first is that even though evenings are lighter, mornings will certainly be darker. This presents a challenge for commuters and children heading to school.
- Secondly, only around 25% of the world currently uses daylight savings, so we may actually end up putting ourselves out of sync with our trading partners.
- Lastly, any changes in the timezones in the UK would necessarily include Scotland. Staying with BST permanently might would mean that some parts of Scotland would be in darkness most of the day for most of the year. Raising the questions of road safety when travelling in darkness, as well as the obvious energy costs that will come about as a result of living in near constant darkness.
What do supporters of BST think?
Supporters of a permanent BST on the other hand argue that we could save energy overall, because lighter evenings means less energy consumption. Recently, Cambridge researchers established that the extra hour of sunlight in the summer saves us up £485 million each year in energy costs. Consumers use less electricity and heating, which is equivalent to getting rid of the energy emissions of 70,000 people. The research showed that approximately 0.5% of Britain’s energy production is wasted in winter.
It’s not just the energy saving argument that’s being put forward. It’s been suggested that switching to BST permanently leads to benefits for the whole economy. Including increased productivity in the financial sector from moving our clocks in line with the rest of Europe. Plus, having more daylight in the evenings no doubt means people will stay out for longer. Staying out longer means spending more on arts, culture and entertainment – which is a boost for the economy. Research shows that longer winter evenings could lead to a yearly boost of £3.5bn for the tourism industry; workers would gain up to 235 hours of after work daylight each year, which means they are more inclined to participate in social events and spend money on entertainment and culture in the evenings.
Those who argue that we should stay with BST all through the year suggest that switching back to GMT in winter means increased spending on energy for not just consumers, but businesses also. Businesses report increased profits during BST as having more daylight throughout the working day means that businesses can save on energy costs too. Plus staying with BST means that we avoid the inevitable computer and POS system errors which frequently occur in the autumn and spring when the clocks switch.
There are sufficient benefits associated with sticking to BST. In the meantime though, businesses will need to take their own measures to ensure that they keep energy costs down and remain profitable over the darker months. British Gas suggests turning your thermostat down by one degree can really make a difference to your energy costs, while not having a noticeable effect on your staff.