Luxury shops across the city are turning off their nighttime lights, plunging the Avenue de Montaigne and other areas renowned for evening window shopping into relative darkness. Even the Eiffel Tower, symbol of France’s rise as an industrialized nation, is hitting the off switch early.
The measures come in response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for “energy sobriety.” The government has asked municipalities, households and companies to reduce their energy consumption by 10% over two years to counter Russia’s decision to cut the flow of natural gas to Europe.
Others across the continent are making their own adjustments. Italy’s government plans to restrict the heating in homes and businesses. The Netherlands is urging residents to shorten their shower times. Finland is encouraging its population to cut the amount of time they spend on digital devices. Monuments in Germany are also going dark.
“Sobriety isn’t to stop living, working and receiving tourists. Sobriety is making the savings that make the most sense in terms of energy consumption,” Mr. Macron’s energy minister, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, told television news media. Turning off monument lights, she added, “is probably not the biggest source of energy savings.”
Paris hasn’t estimated the energy savings from dimming the lights alone. It’s one of a range of measures that the city expects will cut energy usage by about 8%, including plans to lower thermostats in its buildings. Mayor Anne Hidalgo has said the darkened monuments send a signal to residents that they, too, need to save energy.
The European Union has recommended that countries voluntarily curb their gas consumption by 15%. Those that relied heavily on Russian natural gas, including Germany and Italy, might need to cut consumption even more. The target, proposed by the EU’s executive, could become mandatory in an emergency with some exceptions.
Whether countries run out of natural gas this winter will depend on many factors, including how effective companies and governments are in stockpiling the fuel, reducing consumption and diversifying supplies. It will also hinge on the weather. A long, harsh winter would increase gas demand for heating and could lead governments to ration gas.
France unveiled its 50-page plan to save energy during a news conference this week that featured nine government ministers and lasted more than three hours.