France unveils measures to reduce energy use

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Paris_By_NightEven after the election of François Hollande as President of France, an energy conservation measure of the previous government will be implemented.

The Sarkozy government wanted to require shops and offices to turn off their unnecessary lights at nights and this law will now take effect as of July 1, 2013.

All nonresidential buildings will be required to shut off their lights an hour after the last worker leaves or by 1 a.m. each morning. Lights may not be turned on again until 7 a.m. or just before they open. Similarly, the lights on the facades of building will have to be turned off.

The notice that, as a joke, was once suggested to be placed at the exit of office buildings, stating “would the last person to leave please turn off the lights” is, in fact, becoming reality, just minus the sign and the physical action of the last worker leaving.

In a country famous for its many tourist attractions and whose capital city is known as La Ville Lumière – the city of lights – 41 zones and cities will be exempted.

In Paris, many places including the Rue de Rivoli, the Place des Vosges and the Avenue des Champs Elysées won’t be concerned by these measures. The famous Eiffel tower is already turned off every night after two in the morning.

According to estimates 250,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be not be emitted each year thanks to this simple measure, which will also save the equivalent of the electricity consumption of 750,000 French households.

The relatively low amount of avoided carbon dioxide emissions can be explained by the fact that French electricity is to date 85 percent low carbon: 75 percent nuclear and more than ten percent renewable energy (mostly hydro). That does not mean, however, that French electricity generation is clean energy. No one in their right mind, bar political spin-doctors, would say so.

This measure will save up to 2 terawatt hours of electricity, according to the calculations of the French ADEME (French Environment and Energy Management Agency).

And, as the Environment Minister, Delphine Batho, pointed out, this is also a public health issue as "Artificial lighting can damage sleep patterns (...) and also cause significant disruptions on ecosystems by changing communication between species, migrations, reproduction cycles or even the prey-predator relationships."

While these energy savings represents only 0.4 percent of the total electricity consumed in France, this is only a necessary first step. Let's hope many more will occur rapidly.

To conclude, this should be widespread all around the world as simple steps can have huge consequences.

A previous study has shown that turning off all the computers at the end of work days in only three countries – Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States – could save a massive $4.4 billion per year.

Anyone who, however, has been in London, for instance, at night will know that the great majority of office building will have full illumination on 24/7 despite the fact that no one, bar security personnel, is “at home”.

Turning off street lighting at, say, 1am, would also save on money. No one needs to walk the streets of London, especially the back streets, at midnight or beyond.

Such actions would not just save energy and reduce pollution associated with the production of same but also would reduce light pollution and be good for the wildlife.

In the towns and villages in the British countryside it was common practice not so long ago for the street lamps to be turned off at 11pm at the latest. But this is no longer the case and in some places the automatic shut off does not always seem to work, such as in much of Surrey, and lights are on day and night without any action being taken for days or even weeks.

It would thus be indeed good if such measures would be implemented all around the globe in cities and towns and also our villages.

© 2013