Switch off shop lights to help avoid blackouts, urges Green Party peer

France and Spain have legislated for shops to turn off lights late at night

Saphora Smith
Climate Correspondent
Friday 02 December 2022 17:34 GMT
Parkour pros switch the lights off to help businesses during energy crisis

The government should pass a law requiring advertising billboards and shop signs to be switched off at night to help avoid potential blackouts, a Green party peer has said.

Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party from 2012 to 2016 and second Green peer in the House of Lords, told The Independent the government should legislate to oblige businesses to switch off “blazing” neon shop signs in the middle of the night.

“Those are not essential uses of electricity and if we cut down on that we could actually save ourselves potentially blackouts,” she said.

Like the rest of Europe, the UK is struggling with an energy crisis after Russia slashed its exports of natural gas that many countries depended on to generate electricity. Moscow’s decision has sent prices soaring as countries scramble to find alternative sources of energy.

To save energy the government should also consider pushing businesses to turn off lights in shops after hours, said Baroness Bennett, pointing to policies in France and Spain that do just that.

In 2013, France introduced a law that stated all exterior and shop window lighting must be turned off by 1am. At the time it was estimated the move would save enough electricity to power 750,000 households a year.

And this summer Spain announced that lights in shops must be switched off after 10pm in a bid to save energy. Meanwhile, Paris climate activists have made headlines by practising Parkour to switch off shop signs at night in a bid to save energy.

Switching off lights, digital advertising screens and billboards at night would help people sleep better, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save government money that goes on subsidies for businesses, Baroness Bennett said.

"What we need is thoughtful energy use. Asking what can be saved without damage – or even with benefit,” she said.

Baroness Bennett is not the only person calling for more intervention from the government to save energy and tackle the climate crisis.

Nadhim Zahawi says power blackouts in winter will be ‘extremely unlikely’

Mike Childs, head of policy at Friends of the Earth, said in the midst of the climate and energy crises the government should be doing more to get businesses to cut energy waste.

“Including following the lead of France and Spain by requiring firms to switch off unnecessary lighting at night,” he said.

Baroness Bennett recently asked the government how much electricity is used via digital advertising boards and shop signs in England, and what plans it had to promote or legislate for switching these off when the electricity system is under pressure.

In response this week, Lord Callanan, a minister in the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, said the government did not hold that data and pointed to the National Grid’s flexibility service which rewards users who reduce their electricity during peak times.

“The government continues to work closely with industry to develop our response options for when the system is under pressure, and National Grid has standard, long-standing procedures in place in the extremely unlikely event of an emergency on the energy network,” he said.

The Independent has contacted the business department for further comment.

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