Urban authorities set the example with urban lighting switch off

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To save energy, many cities have decided to restrict the lighting up of public buildings, especially monuments.

That’s the case in Lyon in the southeast of France.

Setting an example

The city’s well-known for its Festival of Lights on December the 8th. That event hasn’t been called into question – yet – but the green-led local authorities want to set an example by reducing everyday lighting.

“What we’re doing already is turning off all the illuminations in Lyon, four days a week: bridges, churches, museums, and so on,” says Sylvain Godinot, deputy mayor for ecological transition in Lyon. “This is for lighting not needed for pedestrian and road traffic.

“People understand that in a context of crisis, we can’t leave lights on that are just for showcasing. We have to focus on essential public services.”

Businesses follow suit

City lighting is a question that also involves shops and businesses.

Many shop windows remain lit all night, despite regulations that call for displays to be switched off between 1.00 am and 6.00 am.

To encourage change, climate activists in cities such as Paris have been carrying out “Switch Off operations”.

At the same time, businesses like Les Curieux concept store in Lyon city-centre are also taking the initiative. It’s a cooperative that’s trying to be more sustainable, especially when it comes to lighting.

“Mainly what we’ve done in the store is to transform the lighting, installing LEDs which consume less energy,” says manager Nicolas Asbóth-Martire.

“And above all, we’ve restricted the time the lighting’s on, whether it’s the sign outside or rooms where we don’t need lights on all the time. We’ve installed a motion detector to make sure the lights are off when they’re not needed.

“It seems obvious to us we shouldn’t light up our shopfront displays when nobody needs them. In the evening we’ve public lighting that’s already sufficient to light up the displays.”

Recently, the French government called on companies to reduce energy consumption by 10%. Savings of this order can be made on lighting and heating.

Every gesture counts

Bruno Lafitte is an engineer at ADEME, the Agency for Ecological Transition, and an international lighting expert. He says the decision by several cities across the world and in Europe to limit monument illuminations is valuable, even if the energy savings are marginal.

“It certainly does have an impact because it’s possible to make immediate, direct savings,” he says.

“On the other hand, the impact is weak compared to the impact of building renovation because buildings are like “energy sieves”. But every gesture counts and this is important.

“Switch off public lights and everyone sees it. It’s a collective gesture because the whole neighbourhood sees it.

“And it’s a fairly easy gesture, without a big negative, that allows direct energy savings.”

And he believes that there are acts that individuals too can take that will make a difference.

“There are two aspects,” he says. “First, avoid energy waste. For lighting, we all know about the recommendation to turn the light off when leaving a room.

“In other words, don’t leave a light on when it’s not benefiting anyone. It’s wasted energy.

“In addition to avoiding energy waste, you can also think about your own usage. This is part of the notion of sobriety: thinking about how we use energy.

“Can I reduce my electricity consumption simply by reducing my own comfort a bit?

“For example, in winter why not reduce the room temperature and put on a jumper rather than a shirt or T-shirt?

“A small effort like this doesn’t reduce comfort levels. It simply requires you to think about energy use.”