On the 26th of March, we will switch to Summer Time again. As usual, we will ask ourselves the inevitable question : will we sleep an hour more or an hour less ? On this occasion, we have decided to explain to you the reasons why we are forced to face this headache every six months.
The main goal of time change is to save power. All this started in the early 20th century when electricity became available in a great majority of the houses, factories and public facilities and was considered as the principal – and often only – source of artificial lightning. Yet, at the time, it was mainly produced thanks to petrol or coal-fuelled power stations. But, over the years, raw materials became rarer and rarer and, therefore, more and more expensive. In 1914, the First World War aggravated this problem since the governments of the belligerent countries had to invest huge sums of money to pay the soldiers and buy or manufacture weapons.
So, in 1916, most of the European countries decided to move clocks every six months in order to make the best of natural daylight and reduce the use of lamps. Since then, every year, from March to November, watches are set on Summer Time. As days are longer, clocks are switched one hour forward so that people feel that the sun sets later and so they have a lesser need for artificial lightning in the evening. Conversely, from November to March, since days get shorter, clocks are set back to Winter Time (which is sometimes also called Standard Time) in order for us to have the impression that the sun rises earlier and that we do not need to use lamps in the morning.
Over the years, most of the countries in the world have developed this habit. Yet, since the closer one is to the Equator, the less the length of days varies; tropical countries do not need to change time. Moreover, some very big countries that spread over several time zones, such as Russia or Brazil, have decided not to switch time in order not to make things more complicated than they already are.
Nowadays, with the development of new industries and technologies, the share of power used for lightning has considerably diminished so time change allows less and less significant savings. Many people would like to abolish it but this would complicate trade and exchanges with the countries that would still do it. Furthermore, suppressing time change would prevent us from having really long conversations about the advantages and drawbacks of Summer or Winter Time. It would also deprive us from a very convenient excuse to explain why we are an hour late for school or for an appointment and this would really be a pity…