France Orders Lights Out To Conserve Energy


Paris may be known worldwide as the “City of Light”, but Parisians will have no choice but to embrace the darkness starting from July 1, reported Reuters, after the French environment ministry issued a decree on Wednesday ordering all non-residential properties to switch off their lights at night.

The new law is intended to save up to two terawatt/hours of electricity a year, according to Environment Minister Delphine Batho, and will help the country “reduce the print of artificial lighting on the nocturnal environment.”

The environment ministry also calculated that the move would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 250,000 tons a year – or equivalent of the annual consumption of 750,000 households.

Under the decree, all businesses must switch off their lights an hour after the last employee leaves, while exterior lighting on building facades and shop fronts must be turned off by 1 a.m.

The move, when first proposed in December last year, had been met with outcry from Parisian merchants in particular, who claimed that government was hurting the world’s no. 1 tourist destination image.

“Great! Another positive message sent to citizens and to tourists: the city will go dark!” said Sofy Mulle, vice- president of the France’s Commerce Council, which represents all of the country’s 650,000 merchants employing about 3.5 million people, to Bloomberg. “We are ready to make efforts, but the government is cutting a fine line between sobriety and austerity.”

“Surely, we can work out environmentally friendly solutions that have less impact on our society and our economy.”

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The new rule however is unlikely to affect landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, which already switches off its lights at 1am, or the Notre Dame cathedral, which has been brought down its energy consumption from 54,000 watts to 9,000 watts over the last decade. Exceptions to the rule will also be made for Christmas lighting and other local events, said Bathos.

A British energy conservationist praised the French measure, but warned that an illumination ban would only be effective if it were strongly enforced by government.

"If France is going to enforce this then that's really good, but the worry is that they've introduced something that's perfectly logical, but then it’s not enforced. Then you've got the worst of both worlds,” said Andrew Warren, head of the UK's Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE), to BusinessGreen.

Others warned of the social implications of the rule, highlighting that only 10 percent of France’s total lighting consumption is made at night.

“Lighting has a social role, it serves as a reference point,” said Elise Bourmeau, vice-president of the Lighting Union. “We will adapt. But truly, there are solutions that would allow us to keep them on in an energy efficient way.”