Paris cuts the lights to save energy. Will It Help? | Whuff News


Paris—The City of Light will go dark.

Luxury stores across the city turn off their lights at night, casting Avenue de Montaigne and other areas known for evening window shopping into darkness. Tourists show the monuments in night photographs, only to find soft silhouettes. Even the Eiffel Tower, a symbol of France’s rise as an industrialized nation, is fading away.

The measures will respond to French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for “decentralization.” The government has asked municipalities, households and companies to reduce their energy consumption by 10% within two years to oppose Russia’s decision to limit the flow of natural gas to Europe.

Others across the continent are making their own adjustments. The Italian government plans to ban heating in homes and businesses. The Netherlands is urging residents to reduce their shower times. Finland encourages its citizens to limit the time they spend using digital devices. Monuments in Germany will also be dark.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire recently said he will be wearing turtlenecks this winter as a way to keep warm and conserve energy. The next day, Mr. Macron also appeared in a turtleneck.

Efforts have questioned whether some of the gestures are appropriate, or not enough to move the needle on Europe’s energy crisis.

French President Emmanuel Macron on October 3.


Photo:

ludovic marin/PRESS POOL

“Good behavior is not to stop living, working and welcoming tourists. “Sobriety makes savings that make the most sense in terms of energy consumption,” Mr Macron’s energy minister, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, told BFM television news channel. Turning off memorial lights, she added, “is probably not the greatest source of energy savings.”

Paris didn’t think about saving electricity by just turning off the lights. It is one of a series of measures that we expect the city to reduce energy consumption by about 8%, including plans to reduce thermostats in its buildings. Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the black monuments send a signal to residents that they, too, need to conserve energy.

“We must stop believing that people are attracted only by light,” said Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire. “People are mosquitoes.”

The European Union has proposed that countries voluntarily limit their gas consumption by 15%. Those heavily dependent on Russian natural gas, including Germany and Italy, may have to cut consumption even further. The target, proposed by the EU executive, could be mandatory in an emergency, among other things.

Whether countries run out of natural gas this winter will depend on many factors, including how well companies work with governments to collect fuel, reduce consumption and diversify supplies. It will also depend on the weather. Long, harsh winters can increase demand for heating gas and may lead governments to ration gas.

France announced its 50-page energy saving plan during a press conference this week featuring nine government ministers and lasting more than three hours. The government is France’s biggest energy consumer, and measures include cutting off hot water in public building bathrooms and capping heating at 64 degrees in all public buildings, including courts and publicly run museums.

Ministers say government vehicles will have to slow down to save electricity. Driving at 68 kilometers per hour rather than 80 kilometers per hour on highways reduces fuel consumption by a fifth, the report said.

In front of the Louvre at 11 p.m

Eiffel Tower at 11:30, before lights out.

The measures urge the French to make many changes at home: Use appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines outside of peak hours, unplug computers and TVs that are not in use and take short showers.

The government has also suggested that companies ask employees to work from home on certain days, allowing offices to be dark to save electricity. The national employers’ organization Medef pushed back against any proposal to expand working from home.

The French report said that public lighting is the second largest consumer of energy in municipalities after controlling the temperature of buildings, representing 31% of their electricity expenditure. The Mediterranean city of Nice has also set a target to reduce energy consumption by a tenth this winter, in part by switching off the facade of museums and all decorative lights in the city between 11pm and 5am.

“We will publish our electricity and gas consumption every week,” said Premier Elisabeth Borne. “Depending on this and the weather, we will see if we can generate the required electricity.”

The Russian gas cut has already led to factory shutdowns across Europe, threatening the region’s economy, which is more dependent on the likes of steelmakers, chemical producers and carmakers than the US.

Governments hope that additional savings, such as turning off lights in designated areas, will be enough to end the winter. In Paris, where tourism is a major part of the economy, the new calm is particularly evident due to the abundance and star power of its attractions.

The ornate exteriors of the city’s buildings are now extinguished by 10 p.m., including the Gothic Tour Saint-Jacques, the arched facade of the Petit Palais and the grand Hotel de Ville, or city hall. The Palace of Versailles—a symbol of austere presence in pre-revolutionary France—does the same.

Night lights on monuments and luxury shops in Paris are dimmed in an effort to conserve energy. The move comes after Russia cut off natural gas flows to Europe. Photo: Laurence Geai of the Wall Street Journal

The lights of the Eiffel Tower turn off two hours early, at 11:45 pm, when the monument closes to tourists. Lighting its hundreds of lights traditionally accounts for about 4% of its energy use, according to the company that operates the monument.

On a recent evening, Asia Willis, a film and television producer from Los Angeles, was shocked to discover the glass pyramid of the Louvre museum had lost its jewel-like beauty. The building—which used to light up at midnight, overlooking the courtyard of the former royal palace—was now empty. “I’m really sad,” Ms Willis said. “It’s really unfortunate that it’s dark. It’s still a really cool idea, but I wish the lights were loaded. I love the design. It’s a missed opportunity. The city gets a lot of tourists, especially this museum.”

Paris was named the City of Lights in the 17th century, when its chief of police tried to improve nighttime safety by installing thousands of lamps and lanterns. Two centuries later, the city became a leader in urban electrification.

France is a major exporter of electricity. But the loss of Russian gas, and technical problems with all nuclear weapons fleets, has forced the country to import electricity.

EDF SA,

the world’s largest holder of nuclear power, it is essential to Europe’s energy supply. An unexpected breakdown in France’s nuclear reactor cooling and maintenance systems has forced more than half of its 56 reactors offline. The issues led to France’s nuclear production reaching a 30-year low.

Hervé Laporte, 55, who runs a small dry cleaning business in Paris, said he was trying to save energy. “When you’re a small business, your energy expenditure is very clear on your balance sheet at the end of the year,” he said.

With energy costs high and business slowing, he had to make a change. He pointed to the automatic clothes iron. “It’s been a year since I turned it on. It uses a lot of watts,” he said.

He called turning off lights at Paris monuments “small potatoes.”

“You look around and the offices are lit up, probably with old light bulbs that use a lot of energy,” he said. “It’s all PR. The Eiffel Tower went dark, the people of Paris couldn’t care less. There are huge savings to be had. “

On Avenue de Montaigne around 1 am

Hotel de Ville gets dark at 10.

In the “golden triangle” shopping district of Paris, restaurants owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE are now turning off their lights between 10pm and 7am, one of a series of measures the company has launched to save energy. Department stores traditionally kept the lights on late at night, allowing the storefronts to act as billboards.

LVMH has encountered technical difficulties in ensuring that many of its brands, including Dior and Tiffany, will turn off the lights in their stores earlier, said Hélène Valade, director of environmental development at LVMH. Another challenge, he said, was that the luxury group had no control over when to turn off the lights in some of its stores, because they don’t always own the actual buildings.

The company is now ensuring that more than 500 of its stores in France are fitted with electricity meters to give better control over their energy use, Ms Valade said. The conglomerate will be expanding its energy saving initiatives through Europe in November, and the rest of the world after that.

More restrictions are on the way as Christmas approaches. The Champs-Elysées, the city’s most famous avenue, will be illuminated for six weeks this year, instead of seven in previous years. The Champs-Elysées committee also asked that all boutiques, shops and screens on the avenue turn off their lights after 10 pm from Oct. 15, excluding restaurants and cinemas.

Romain Tang Thaï Sen, 20 years old, was walking in Paris with a friend on a recent night. The black Eiffel Tower was a statement, he said, to people beyond the city limits.

He said: “Turning off the lights is a measure that we must spread throughout the world.”

Write to Nick Kostov at Nick.Kostov@wsj.com

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



Source link