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Lights out?

In a couple of months’ time, Paris will begin attempting to enforce a city-wide ban on non-residential properties keeping their lights on at night, with aim of saving enough to power three quarters of a million homes and a quarter of a million tonnes in greenhouse gases.

The fuss over Paris making this move lies in the city’s reputation as ‘the city of lights’. Perhaps it will need a re-brand to the city of lights out. The Eiffel Tower is, however, likely to be granted an exception, and others will be granted for seasonal festivities, which should prevent public outcry.

In the UK, the ‘lights off in the public realm’ debate has focused more on road and street lighting than businesses and shops (see a nifty summary on Which? Conversation) – but it still incites strong feelings; those around safety and the feeling of safety being key.

The savings to be made make a switch-off tempting, especially for cash-strapped local authorities, but many are looking into the alternatives to a blanket descent into darkness. Durham Council, for example, have gone for dimming by 25 and 50 per cent at appropriate points in the evening and night, while others are looking at more technological solutions.

Our Lit Up report showed clearly the potential of LED lighting in public thoroughfares and Plymouth are one of the forerunners of going down that route for their street lighting. Although it’s a pretty big up-front investment (£13million in Plymouth’s case) it’s a worthwhile one given it offers big energy-saving potential at a stroke, and with brighter, cleaner light to allay all safety concerns.

Such a plan has succeeded elsewhere. Los Angeles has replaced over 100,000 of its units with LED fittings and seen energy use from street lighting drop by two-thirds, with rather tidy cash savings of around $4.5million.

If all this lighting talk has given you the nudge to make the change at home, there’s plenty of information on cutting your lighting costs and carbon on our advice pages.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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