Next Sunday, March 26, spring-summer time begins, in accordance with the European Time Change Directive that is applied in all the States of the European Union, pursuing energy savings despite growing doubts about the effectiveness of this average. .

The fact of sleeping one hour less (with the time change from March to summer time) can cause temporary negative health disorders, such as fatigue, stress and tiredness, as well as changes in mood, but the measure also has effects on the economy. In fact, its origin has economic reasons.

The time change began to become widespread from 1974, after the first oil crisis, when some countries decided to advance the clock to make better use of sunlight and thus consume less electricity for lighting. It has been applied as a directive since 1981 and has been successively renewed every four years. Since the approval of the Ninth Directive by the European Parliament and the Council of the Union in January 2001, the change applies indefinitely. The first provisions on summer time were adopted in Europe in 1980 and since 2000, the Directive has been incorporated into the Spanish legal system by Royal Decree 236/2002, of March 1, establishes the rules that mark its beginning in March and its completion in October.

But this measure was adopted at a different time than today with lifestyle habits that could affect energy consumption to a greater extent. In addition, that the working hours have changed and teleworking has been spreading, which means that the routines of citizens no longer coincide as much as before in the same space-time.

According to official estimates from the Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving (IDAE), in Spain, the time change promotes energy savings, although the last study in this regard is dated 2015. This study indicates that the potential for lighting savings could reach around 300 million euros, the equivalent of 5% of the total. Of that amount, 90 million corresponds to the potential of households, which represents a saving of 6 euros per household and the remaining 210 million would be saved in service sector buildings and industry. However, it has not been concluded that the supposed saving is fulfilled in the current context, since the time change studies require a prolonged analysis over time to evaluate seasonal situations. In any case, they observe that “the new requirements for energy efficiency in lighting, in air conditioning systems and in the buildings themselves, as well as the progressive introduction of self-consumption, significantly alter the analyzes that were originally used to calculate these data”.

The most current report in this regard was prepared by the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy in 2018, which indicates that time changes can produce savings, but they are marginal and, therefore, there is no certainty that the benefits that obtained in all countries that adopt it. Likewise, he adds that although energy savings can be produced in lighting, it is not so obvious that the same thing happens with heating, which could even increase its consumption. The IDAE admits that the results of this report are difficult to interpret because they are influenced by external factors, such as the weather or the behavior of users.

The same year that this latest study was approved, in light of these conclusions, the debate began on whether or not to continue with the time change in the European Union, when the Commission carried out a public consultation in which more than 80% of the 4, 6 million citizens who participated were in favor of ending time changes. The Commission proposed, at the initiative of Finland, to end this practice and that the last time change take place in March 2019, but the lack of consensus between the States and the impact assessments delayed the possible cancellation of the time change.

Although the European Commission approved the elimination of the time change, the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism committee finally opted to delay the elimination of the biannual time change proposed by the European Commission and leave more time for countries to decide whether to stay with summer or winter time. According to the European Directive 2000/84/CE. However, in 2019 it was established that as of 2021 European countries could eliminate this obligation if they considered it so and countries such as Spain and Portugal decided that they will continue with the seasonal time change.

In Spain, a commission of 14 ‘wise men’ was created to determine whether or not to eliminate the seasonal time change and, in the event of an affirmative decision, to decide which time was most appropriate. The experts presented a report in which no “conclusive resolution” was reached, given the “large amount of impact repercussions” that this measure has in fields such as economics or culture.

According to the expert José Canseco, a professor at EAE Business School, the time change has negative effects on the economy, such as a reduction in the productivity of companies and their professionals. “On some occasions, depending on the activity of the company, it could lead to additional costs, due to possible adjustments to the schedules of its employees or international customer service,” he said in a statement. “In addition, it could affect energy consumption (lighting and heating), but it has been shown that these costs/benefits (depending on whether it is the October or March change) are marginal. Clearly the highest cost is associated with the performance of the professionals on adaptation days”, explains the expert.

The consequences go beyond borders and also affect international trade, where some distortions can be generated, especially with regard to financial market hours and their coordination of work schedules between companies from different countries. “This can affect the efficiency of business processes, communication and collaboration,” she argues, stressing that the supposed benefit of energy cost savings is not such. However, having more daylight hours is positive for the person in every way.

This expert recalls that in Europe the change of time to summer is mandatory, but it is important to highlight that Spain is not in the corresponding time zone (therefore, in summer we are in GMT 2) and that logically, summer time benefits northern European countries.

“In a country like Spain, the ideal would be to return to the GMT 0 time zone (the one that corresponds to us) and adopt summer time all year round, which in practice is GMT 1. Or stay in the current time zone GMT 1 and adopt winter time all year round. This would cover standard business hours with no sunlight issues at any time of the year.”