From the first candle lantern outside the Grand Chatelet in 1318 to the flat-flame gas lamps that illuminated the city in the 19th century, Paris has long been leading the way when it comes to public lighting. But this year, the City of Light may usher in our new energy-scarce era by going dark.
A proposal from Delphine Batho, head of the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, and Energy, would require stores, offices, and public buildings across the country to turn off the lights between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. The point of the policy, according to Batho, is not only to save energy and money but also "to change the culture" in a time of economic crisis, making people aware of the importance of using energy resources efficiently.
If the new policy is approved by Parliament, it will take effect in June, with certain exceptions for hospitals, police stations, and other critical operations. Indeed, the target of the policy seems to be shops that keep their lights on all night long. Or at least that’s what some proprietors seem to think. France’s Commerce Council has made statements opposing the idea, claiming that it will turn off tourists and hurt business. Predictably, the light bulb and lighting systems industries have also objected.
If the law goes through, what will the savings be? According to Minister Batho, the energy savings—reaped by the government and business owners alike—would total $261 million (the time period is unclear; we’ll assume that’s per year). So that’s not going to solve the Eurozone crisis, but it’s real money. And given that the lights on the Eiffel Tower—and most of Paris’s other monuments—are already turned off at night, maybe tourists won’t notice after all.