French businesses outraged over plan to turn lights out 1am to 7am

Sometimes I really wonder what goes through the heads of business leaders when they get worked up about issues such as saving energy.

In this latest example of silly outrage, French businesses are furious over government plans to require shops and offices to turn out their lights between 1AM and 7AM. For the business leaders, this is a catastrophic event that they claim will damage their businesses.

As anyone who has ever visited Paris knows, this city shuts down early. It’s not a ’round-the-clock city like New York or Sao Paulo where clubs and restaurants are always open. The Metro closes at 1AM during the week, and 2AM on the weekends. There are a few 24 hour restaurants but very few. The 24×7 shopping culture of the US does not exist in France, with most shops closing at 8PM, perhaps a few grocery stores as late as 10PM and of course, most shops are closed on Sundays.

If nobody is walking the streets at these hours, who cares if the lights are on or off?

Putting this aside, is saving energy that horrible? It’s not clear why this group is so upset about something that will save them money since nobody is around anyway. Maybe these business leaders can find a real issue to get upset about because this is not worth their time or money.


champs elysees paris

Paris via Shutterstock

The French minister for energy and environment unveiled last week a proposal for lights in and outside shops, offices, and public buildings — including the flagship Louis Vuitton store and the Lido cabaret house on Paris’s Avenue des Champs Elysees — to be turned off between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. starting in July. The plan, to be applied across French cities, towns and villages, is aimed at saving energy and money and showing “sobriety,” Minister Delphine Batho said.The move has provoked an outcry from merchants, who say the government is being insensitive to France’s image as the world’s No. 1 tourist destination. They say the rule, on top of existing bans on Sunday store openings and night shopping, will hurt business at a time when the French economy has barely grown for a year and unemployment is at a 14-year high.

“Great! Another positive message sent to citizens and to tourists: the city will go dark!” said Sofy Mulle, vice- president of the France’s Commerce Council, which represents all of the country’s 650,000 merchants employing about 3.5 million people. “We are ready to make efforts, but the government is cutting a fine line between sobriety and austerity. Surely, we can work out environmentally friendly solutions that have less impact on our society and our economy.”

Sure thing, whatever guys. Why is it that they always can self-regulate at times like this, but when they’re given the choice, they never do it? Tough luck.

An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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19 Responses to “French businesses outraged over plan to turn lights out 1am to 7am”

  1. Asterix says:

    Yes and no. In this particular application, it wouldn’t be appropriate, as mercury vapor lamps do have a warm-up time. By the time the passer-by has passed by, the lamp will have only just reached operating temperature. The lamp is then extinguished and then cannot be restarted for about 8-10 minutes until the internal pressure drops.

    Since the spectrum of an MV lamp is heavily skewed toward the blue, it can make it harder to see than one would suspect by measuring the total output. I’m sure you’ve seen the effect with LP sodium. Most cities where I live use HP sodium HID–not as long-lived, but the quality of the output is better. LED output is quite efficient visually.

    LED street lighting is still in its development stage, so yes, it’s expensive. Prices will come down and be offset by the better efficiency and longer service life. One aspect is that some emitters in a luminaire can be turned off to provide dimmer lighting until full light is desired. And this is Paris we’re talking about, right?

    There are a bunch of YouTube videos on LED street lighting that are worth viewing.

    My take, for what it’s worth.

  2. K_L_Carten says:

    Very expensive too, also you can not use every light for every thing. There is a reason there are different types of lighting.

  3. K_L_Carten says:

    Not true on Mercury Vapor lighting, unless the design has changed, but that is one of the pros on mercury vapor, is that it can be turned on and off consistently with a low fail rate. Used them constant when I worked as a Industrial Electrician, different lights for different jobs but mercury vapors where the best. They light a large area, no matter what kind of weather as long as fixture is rated, and the lights have a long burn life with low failure rate. Nine times out of ten it was the ballast that went out and not the light itself, and mercury vapor lights are more efficient than some fluorescent lamps depending on rating. Another little tidbit, but the lights where a prized commodity, since we very rarely had to change the bulbs, the tubes inside the bulbs make a great knife sharpener. It was a fight to get one and a fight to keep it, because even your closest friend would rip you off to get the damn thing. The larger wire insulation is very thick and dulls the blade so working Industrial, 500 kcm is standard and ya got to have a sharp blade.

  4. K_L_Carten says:

    I don’t know, to me it’s a pretty silly argument, you would think the business owners would like to cut overhead anyway they could. Unless they pay a flat rate regardless of usage, then I could understand not being able to use the power. Not knowing how it works in France, but I do know that as far as Industrial here in the states plants pay a flat fee on power usage. Light commercial such as shops pay what they use, I know my brother who owns a store, keeps a min. of lights on when the store closes. He has some small low voltage lights in the windows and auxiliary lighting. I talked him into the low voltage for cost savings, and he did see a marked difference after changing over, but incandescent lights have always been inefficient as far as power usage. Didn’t know that until I went into the apprenticeship, funny how much you can learn about electricity learning a trade.

  5. Naja pallida says:

    The same theory could easily apply. They could set up motion sensors or cameras and monitor activity outside their shop. Potential customer comes by, lights come on. When there is no activity for a certain length of time, lights go out. Though, once you’re talking about indoor lighting the various annoyances Sweetie mentioned above would come into play. LED lighting tends to be on the blue-tinted end, and glaring. To showcase their merchandise it would probably take some tweaking to get things right… but I still don’t see why it shouldn’t be possible, and in the long run, a cost savings.

  6. Asterix says:

    Those criticisms are generally not true for commercial-grade LED luminaires. Consumer-level devices are engineered for low cost; commercial devices are a very different kettle of fish.

    Here’s a representative sample:

  7. perljammer says:

    Ah, Paris — the City of Lights-Out.

  8. microdot says:

    But, this proposal has nothing to do with street lighting. It’s advertising store window lighting.

  9. Now if they’d only cut down on light pollution here, then star gazing would become possible in the suburbs!

  10. goulo says:

    A step in the right direction. I’ve been annoyed for years at the extreme pointless waste of energy from businesses with insanely excessive bright ugly advertising lights on all the time.

  11. Sweetie says:

    Unfortunately, LED lights also tend to flicker terribly and give off a piercing eye-hurting light. I bought some LED indoor lights and they are unusable. The light is sickly and bluish and the worst part is the horrible flicker.

    LED computer/device backlights are also potentially bad for one’s eyesight due to UV they give off. “White” LEDs actually give off their light in the UV range and only the phosphor coating makes the light visible. I read this, but it may not be accurate. However, white LED backlights for computer and TV screens usually have inferior color range and uniformity.

    LED has benefits, but also drawbacks. The flickering, for computer/device screens, can be avoided with a constant control system rather than a PWM (pulse width modulation) system.

  12. Indigo says:

    Anything that is “not the way we’ve always done it” is going to come in for rigorous criticism. That’s not business, that’s just people being people. Logic does not apply when the Cro-Magnon lead with the reptilian brain.

  13. Naja pallida says:

    Not to mention, LED street lights are significantly more energy efficient – if that is the real reason they’re talking about turning lights out in the first place. Though it may require some adjustment to get the same level of light coverage, but in the long run, such an infrastructure improvement, coupled with when-needed technology, could theoretically “pay for itself” in energy savings inside of five years. Though the initial investment would not be insignificant. Seems to me that it would be a pretty nice make-work project we could even do here at home… but then I guess we’d have to actually look at our crumbling roads and rusting bridges.

  14. htfd says:

    How very typical of business, to turn a non issue (actual cost saving measure) into an issue of over blown proportion. Double business’s electric bill and watch how fast they turn out the lights.

  15. Asterix says:

    Turning conventional (incandescent, metal-halide, mercury-vapor, etc.) lamps on and off considerably shortens their lives. However, this is a perfect excuse for Paris to upgrade to LED street lighting which doesn’t suffer from that problem.

    (As an aside, a compact fluorescent lamp will have its lifetime considerably shortened if turned on and off frequently, as will an incandescent).

  16. karmanot says:

    OMG, you mean nobody can see the Idle Tower at night?

  17. Naja pallida says:

    Sounds to me like I need to get to the patent office for some software that monitors surveillance cameras for human activity and turns on the lights in a block radius, and shuts them off again after 15 minutes of no activity.

  18. Kelly says:

    Why would they care it’s in the middle of the night, I don’t get it.

  19. nicho says:

    Paris will now be known as “La ville-lumière – de temps en temps”

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