A German environmental association calls for pausing Christmas ‘lighting orgies’ to save energy

Christmas lights will most likely see restrictions in several parts of Europe because of the energy crisis. The managing director of a German environmental association calls for a pause of these “lighting orgies.

Kurfürstendamm in Berlin with Christmas lights in 2013
Kurfürstendamm in Berlin with Christmas lights | © Natascha, 2013

Jürgen Resch, Federal Managing Director of the non-profit environmental association Environmental Action Germany called for a pause of Christmas lights of cities and households this year, he told RedaktionsNetzwerk (Editorial Network Germany), the central editorial office of the Hanover-based group of regional publications Madsack.

Electricity consumption of Christmas lights has been in the spotlight for several years now, for both its environmental impact and its cost. It is coming back on the table this year as Europe is facing an energy crisis with soaring prices and trying to find solutions to limit its consequences.

Mr. Resch said that “in view of the war in Ukraine, the energy shortage, and also for climate protection, we should pause for a moment” what he refers to as “private lighting orgies“.

Private households’ Christmas lights use 600 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year in Germany, which accounts for the electricity used by a city of 400,000 people in a year, according to Mr Resch. He suggested instead that only one tree per city be enlightened.

In Berlin, the Senate decided to cancel its financial contribution to the Christmas lighting of the Kurfürstendamm, a touristy commercial street of the capital, the equivalent to the Champs Élysées in Paris.

According to AG City, the community organizing events on Kurfürstendamm, the boulevard has now been operating with about 140,000 LED light bulbs since 2019. Power cost 8,000 to 10,000 euros, “a fraction” of the overall operational cost, which included its installation for instance. The boulevard is expected to save energy this year so it would only cost 5,000 euros. Worried about the commercial consequences for stores on the boulevard, AG City now even asks for private donations to finance Christmas lights.

The city of Berlin also decided that outdoor lighting and illumination of representative public buildings like the Victory Column, Charlottenburg Palace, and the Brandenburg Gate, are switched off. The temperature in public buildings will be lowered to 19 degrees Celsius (66F), and 17ºC in corridors and stairwells.

For the Champs Élysées avenue in France, the Christmas lighting period will be one week shorter, from November 20 to January 2 and will be switched off before midnight instead of 2 a.m. The Committee of the Champs Élysées, a non-profit gathering most of the largest stores on the French avenue, foresees a 44 percent saving on power consumption and argues that “energy sobriety should not be synonymous with economic recession or psychological austerity.

Eiffel Tower lights will also switch off at 11.45 p.m. when the monument closes, instead of 1 a.m., and other public buildings in Paris will be switched off from 10 p.m. Temperature will be set at 18ºC inside public buildings during the days, and 12°C at night.

In light of the rising energy prices, several smaller cities in France have also decided to limit Christmas lights. A consideration that takes place in several countries. The minister for the environment of Ireland Eamon Ryan for instance said that local authorities are looking at the issue of Christmas lights on streets, according to the Irish Times.

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