Berlin turns off the lights in a bid to save energy

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Berlin has decided to switch off the lights of several monuments and historic buildings overnight from Wednesday to Thursday, as part of a national effort to save energy amid fears of winter shortages. 

Some 200 emblematic buildings in the German capital, including the Victory Column, Charlottenburg Palace and the town hall of the municipality, will eventually no longer be lit at night.

“Given the war against Ukraine and the threats from Russia in terms of energy policy, it is important that we use our energy as carefully as possible,” said Bettina Jarasch, senator for environment, mobility and consumers in Berlin. 

The city will save on the energy usage of 1,400 projectors used to illuminate these sites. 

To stop the automatic mechanisms that turn lights on at nightfall, building-by-building human intervention is necessary, which will take several weeks to complete.  

Berlin will not initially save money as a result of the measure, since the cost of intervening is the same as the €40,000 in electricity costs saved over one year. 

In the short term, “the energy saving effect is decisive for the measurement, not pure profitability”, according to officials in Berlin, which consumes around 200,000 kilowatt hours annually.

Head of state Frank-Walter Steinmeier has also tried to set an example this week by announcing that his official residence in Berlin, Bellevue Palace, would no longer be lit at night, except on special occasions, such as state visits.

For several weeks, the government of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for a national mobilisation to save energy, as prices have exploded since Russia invaded Ukraine. 

Russia has recently dramatically reduced gas supplies to Germany – one of its principal customers –  as part of its ongoing standoff with the West, fuelling fears of winter shortages. 

A campaign has been launched, aimed at professionals and individuals, in Germany to promote certain practices, such as lowering the air conditioning of buildings, favouring public transport or and buying shower heads that use less water.

Many major cities across the country have also announced energy conservation plans.

Before the war in Ukraine, Germany bought 55% of its gas from Russia, a share reduced at the beginning of June to 35% but which still leaves the country at the mercy of gas cuts decided by Moscow. 

The energy company Gazprom has, in several stages, reduced gas deliveries to Germany to 20% of capacity via the Nord Stream gas pipeline.