France Takes Simple but Powerful Step to Save Energy: Shuts Off Lights

It may be unthinkable for cities to go dark at night, but that’s what’s about to happen throughout France, thanks to their new energy law. 

Pretty amazing to think about how much energy can be saved by such a simple, common sense measure. By requiring shops and offices to turn their lights off at night – France will save the energy it takes to power 750,000 homes.

Effective July 1, all non-residential buildings must shut off their lights an hour after the last worker leaves or by 1 AM each morning. They can’t turn them on again until 7 AM or just before they open.

Major tourist attractions are exempt, like the 20,000 flashing bulbs on the Eiffel Tower (which are already turned off each night for a period of time) and public displays, such as Christmas tree decorations at the Champs-Elysees.

Besides savings on energy and emissions, France wants to pioneer addressing light pollution. Environmental minister Delphine Batho hopes the ban will reduce the negative impact that artificial lights have on ecosystems and wildlife, as well as on human sleep patterns.

Night lighting can "cause significant disruptions on ecosystems by changing communication between species, migrations, reproduction cycles or even the prey-predator relationships," she told the NY Times.

The law is one of many measures the new government is implementing to increase energy efficiency and renewables. The country, which for so long has been held up as a model for relying on nuclear, is moving away from that and toward renewable energy. The French government also want to ban natural gas fracking.

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