Paris: Fanning out like urban guerrillas through Paris’ darkened streets well after midnight, the anti-waste activists shinny up walls and drain pipes, reaching for switches to turn off the lights.
One by one, the outdoor lights that stores had left on are extinguished. It’s one small but symbolic step in a giant leap of energy saving that Europe is trying to make as it rushes to wean itself off natural gas and oil from Russia so factories aren’t forced to close and homes stay heated and powered.
These campaigns are precursors of the energy economy drive becoming all the rage in France, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe as the stakes are high.
If Russia severs the supplies of gas it has already drastically reduced, authorities fear Europe risks becoming a colder, darker, and less-productive place this winter. It’s imperative to economize gas now so it can be squirreled away for burning later in homes, factories, and power plants, officials say.
Germany had been getting about a third of its gas from Russia, making the EU’s biggest economy and most populous nation conspicuously vulnerable. Energy saving is in full swing, with lights going off, public pools becoming chillier and thermostats being adjusted.
The glass dome of the Reichstag, the parliament building in Berlin, is going dark after it closes to visitors at midnight, and two facades will no longer be lit. Legislators’ office temperatures will drop to 68 Fahrenheit this winter. Berlin City Hall, the Jewish Museum, two opera houses, and the landmark Victory Column with panoramic views are among about 200 sites in the German capital that will no longer be lit at night.
With a campaign dubbed “Flip the Switch,” the Netherlands’ government is urging showers of no more than five minutes, using sun shades and fans instead of air conditioning, and air-drying laundry.
Under a law passed Monday in often-sweltering Spain, offices, stores, and hospitality venues will no longer be allowed to set their thermostats below 81 degrees Fahrenheit in summer.
“Europe needs to be ready,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “To make it through the winter, assuming that there is a full disruption of Russian gas, we need to save gas to fill our gas storage faster. And to do so, we have to reduce our gas consumption. I know that this is a big ask for the whole of the European Union, but it is necessary to protect us.”