France yesterday introduced energy conservation laws making it obligatory for shops and commercial premises to switch off internal, window and exterior lighting at night.
The new measures, which are designed to reduce France’s carbon footprint and save energy will come into force on July 1, 2013, said France’s Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Delphine Batho in a statement issued by the Minister yesterday.
France's Ecology Minister issued a decree on January 30 regulating the operation of lighting on non-residential buildings in France. As well as reducing the carbon footprint caused by artificial lighting, France’s nocturnal switch-off is also designed to reduce the impact of lighting on the nocturnal environment. Some studies have shown that sleeping in artificial light can contribute towards depression as reported in Le Monde last year, whilst reduced light pollution is also seen as an aid to more restful sleep. Astronomers will also welcome the new regulations as reduced light pollution will mean improved conditions for observing the sky at night.
The proposal for darker skies at night in France had first been put forward by the previous Sarkozy administration in April 2012, as reported in the Digital Journal article ‘The dark streets of France: Government ponders shop lighting ban.’ Former President Sarkozy was defeated by socialist candidate François Hollande in the French presidential election in May 2012. France’s lurch to the left in the presidential and general elections of last year has made no difference so far as the new lighting restrictions are concerned. The new measures, which broadly follow the earlier Sarkozy proposals, will become effective in mid-summer 2013.
The main provisions of France’s new restrictions on artificial lighting are:
• Interior lighting in offices must be switched off one hour after staff vacate premises
• Lighting illuminating building facades can be switched on one hour before sunset but must be extinguished by 1 a.m.
• Window lighting in shops and commercial premises must be switched off between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m.
It is estimated that France’s new night-time lighting regulations will save 2 terawatthours of energy each year, a terawatt being equal to one million megawatts. According to figures from French environment and energy NGO, the Agence de l'environnement et de la maîtrise de l'énergie(ADEME), the savings equate to the power consumed by about 750,000 households and will reduce France’s carbon emissions by 250,000 tonnes of CO2 annually.
Not all of France will be in darkness once the new lighting rules apply. There will be certain exceptions to the new law, being:
• Holidays local festivals and festivities
• Christmas illuminations
• Zones designated prime tourist attractions or where there is a permanent cultural event
The new measures well welcomed by France Nature Environnement and other environmental bodies in France. In a statement Anne-Marie Ducroux, president of the National Association for the Protection of the Sky and the Nocturnal Environment — L’Association nationale pour la protection du ciel et de l’environnement nocturnes (ANPCEN), said, “Having contributed to the process of formulating the text of the new law for 10 months, we believe that the general guidelines set out in text are heading in the right direction and will make a positive contribution to the objectives of enshrining in law the prevention, containment and suppression of light pollution and a more sober use of energy resources leading to a national debate on energy transition."
During a week which saw a study published in Nature demonstrating how cities, particularly in the northern hemisphere, can influence the weather thousands of miles away, other European nations are sure to be keeping a close eye on how matters develop with France’s new nocturnal lighting restrictions.