Berlin turns off lights to save energy

Berlin has decided to turn off the lights on several monuments and historic buildings for the night of Wednesday to Thursday as part of a national effort to conserve energy amid fears of winter power shortages.

Some 200 emblematic buildings in the German capital, including the Victory Column, Charlottenburg Palace and the municipality’s town hall, will eventually no longer be lit at night.

“Given the war against Ukraine and the threat from Russia in terms of energy policy, it is important that we use our energy as sparingly as possible,” said Bettina Jarash, Senator for Environment, Mobility and Consumers in Berlin.

The city will save on the energy consumption of 1,400 floodlights used to illuminate these facilities.

Stopping the automatic mechanisms that turn on the lights at nightfall will require human intervention in every building, which will take several weeks.

Initially, Berlin will not save money as a result of this measure, since the cost of the intervention is the same as 40,000 euros in electricity bills saved in one year.

In the short term, “the effect of energy savings is critical to the measurement, not the bottom line,” according to officials in Berlin, which consumes about 200,000 kilowatt-hours a year.

Head of state Frank-Walter Steinmeier also tried to set an example this week by announcing that his official residence in Berlin, Bellevue Palace, would no longer be lit at night except on special occasions such as state visits.

For weeks, the government of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been calling for a national mobilization to save energy as prices soared after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia recently drastically cut gas supplies to Germany, one of its main consumers, as part of its ongoing standoff with the West, heightening fears of winter gas shortages.

In Germany, a campaign has been launched aimed at professionals and individuals to promote certain practices, such as reducing the air conditioning in buildings, preferring public transport, or buying shower heads that use less water.

Many major cities across the country have also announced energy saving plans.

Before the war in Ukraine, Germany bought 55% of its gas from Russia, a share that dropped to 35% in early June, but still leaves the country at the mercy of Moscow’s gas restrictions.

The energy company Gazprom has in several stages reduced gas supplies to Germany to 20% of the capacity through the Nord Stream gas pipeline.