The Christmas atmosphere is already in the air in Germany, where some large shopping streets and the markets that have already opened display the lights that give brightness and color to the season. This year, however, the energy crisis resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted several cities to reduce lighting hours and use more LED lamps to cut consumption, among calls to save electricity from environmental entities to authorities, businesses and citizens.
At the end of September, the environmental organization Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) called for dispensing with Christmas lights. “In view of the war in Ukraine and the energy shortage, but also for climate protection reasons, we should take a break,” managing director Jürgen Resch said in a statement. According to DUH, only private lighting in homes – in Germany there are those who decorate balconies and windows with light – “causes an energy consumption of more than 600 million kilowatts/hour of electricity per year, the equivalent of what is consumed per year by a city of 400,000 inhabitants.
Although the Government exempts street markets and religious festivals from saving electricity, containment is practiced in the municipalities
Due to the energy emergency, as of September 1, new regulations are in force to save energy: unlit monuments, heating in public buildings at a maximum of 19 degrees, and shop windows and billboards in the dark after ten at night. But the most popular shopping streets and Christmas markets are matters of another tenor. For this reason, the Government approved an exception to the Energy Savings Law in force since September. Word of the Ministry of Economy: the generic prohibition of lighting monuments does not apply “to the lighting of buildings and monuments installed and operated on the occasion of traditional or religious holidays such as Christmas”.
Despite this permission, quite a few cities have decided to put up fewer Christmas lights or have them on for fewer hours, and those municipalities that had already invested in renewable-source technology now benefit from their foresight.
The very old and famous Baby Jesus Market (Christkindlesmarkt) in Nuremberg has been powered by green electricity for almost ten years, and has reduced energy consumption by using LED lamps. In Dresden, the organizers of the Pillnitz Palace Christmas market argue that with their LED lights “the actual power consumption is comparatively low”, and they have also removed the usual ice rink.
Frankfurt opts for lighting, but has reduced its size and suppressed elements. The Christmas tree in the central Römerberg square is smaller this year, so it has fewer lights to turn on, apart from the fact that they are LED, they come on at dusk and go off when the market closes. The organizers calculate that this will save a third of the energy for lighting.
In Stuttgart, the lights will shine on the Christmas trees for 240 hours instead of 450, and the City Council has decided not to light their windows with the Advent calendar. Kiel turns off the string lights and the stars at ten o’clock at night. The Essen Christmas market has committed to consuming 20% less electricity, and in Mainz, the plan is to cut 15%.
The issue has generated debate about the balance between potential energy savings and the possible impact of the shortage of lights on purchases and consumption, key factors at this time for retail trade, which has already been hit hard the previous two Christmases by the anti-covid restrictions. Munich, whose thirty Christmas markets are of great tourist importance, is committed to LED lamps to avoid having to reduce hours. In Berlin last night the inaugural lighting of the Kurfürstendamm boulevard took place, partly financed by donations.
Many temples are reducing the lighting on their facades. The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) argued in a statement that the pre-Christmas lights announcing the birth of Jesus in churches “were not dazzling gigawatt lights, but flickering signs of hope that carry the heavenly message of peace on earth.” This year with the war in Ukraine, say the bishops, “this light of hope is needed more urgently than ever.”