In September, Vice President Teresa Ribera asked city councils for “creative solutions to the Christmas decoration” to save energy. The Government launched this requirement without imposing figures; “a very unsympathetic role”, as recognized by the also minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge. More than two months later, there are several large Spanish cities that have ignored the Executive and common sense. And, among those that do, a few drag their feet.

Three of the five most populated cities in Spain assure EL PAIS that they will not reduce their energy consumption during Christmas lights compared to last year, despite the energy crisis that is shaking the continent and the repeated calls for savings from the European Commission. They are Madrid, Valencia and Zaragoza. However, these three large municipalities are an exception if the focus is extended to all municipalities with more than 250,000 inhabitants: together with Palma, they are the only ones among those 17 cities (which concentrate 24% of the population) that they do not apply saving measures in Christmas lighting.

Malaga is the one that anticipates a greater contraction in consumption, of 33% compared to last year. The Andalusian city, which is characterized by one of the most ostentatious Christmas events in recent years —a real tourist magnet at this time—, this year turns on its lights two hours less a day than in 2021. Another city that has made the Christmas lights, a personal brand is Vigo, where lighting hours are also cut: one hour less than the 11 million LED bulbs in the Galician city, which will serve to save, according to the City Council’s estimate, 14% compared to a year ago.

The second most populous city in Spain (Barcelona) and the fourth (Seville) also cut around a third of consumption. “Instead of November 25, we turn on December 5 and, in addition, we delay one hour on weekdays. And the company that was awarded the Christmas lighting has increased energy efficiency”, explains a spokesperson for the Andalusian council. They are measures similar to those of the Catalan capital and those of the rest of the municipalities that are doing their homework. None indicates that it will reduce the length of the assembly of Christmas lights, which would imply that certain neighborhoods or streets will be left without these decorations five months before the municipal elections. The cuts go through other measures: less ignition time, fewer days and more efficiency due to the improvement of led lights.

The smallest savings rate among those detailed is that of Gijon, which expects to stop spending 7% by lighting half an hour less. Several municipalities, however, apply more ambitious measures than those of the Asturian city, such as Bilbao (which turns on a week later and cuts an hour a day) or L’Hospitalet de Llobregat (which cuts one hour from Monday to Friday and two on weekends), although both prefer not to detail what savings they estimate thanks to their measures. Cordoba City Council is the only one among the most populated municipalities in Spain that has not answered the questions from this newspaper, but local media indicate that the contracted power is 12% lower than last year.

Thus, Madrid, Valencia, Zaragoza and Palma remain as the only large cities that did not apply saving measures compared to last year. At the end of September, the councilor responsible for the area in the capital of Spain, Paloma Garcia, explained to EL PAIS that they were waiting to meet with the merchants, but that it was “very likely” that the saving measures would go through a reduction in the time ignition. Ultimately, the council chooses not to save.

From the Valencia City Council they explain that the city “has done its homework in the last seven years with a serious Energy Efficiency Plan that has made it possible to improve the city’s lighting, reduce energy consumption by 35% and lower the consumption by 50%.” cost of the energy bill”. For this reason, city council sources say: “None of the urgent needs that cities may have that have not carried out an energy efficiency plan like ours.” A spokesperson for the Zaragoza town hall, for his part, qualifies the energy cost of the LED Christmas lights as “minimal” and believes that “there are no significant savings by reducing the ignition time.” Palma City Council sources explain, for their part, that they have already done “their homework” in energy efficiency,

Alejandro Sanchez de Miguel, a researcher at the University of Exeter and one of the most important experts in light pollution, not only believes that saving in consumption is important: “You also have to take into account,” he says, “that tariffs have been multiplied”. “Many Town Halls boast that they are going to get part of the savings because the entire assembly is led. Yes, they are great, but if there are hundreds of thousands they continue to consume an outrage. And we must also take into account that its manufacture generates a lot of CO₂ ″, he adds.

Regarding light pollution, Sanchez de Miguel highlights the inconvenience that these power lines cause some neighbors. He gives the example of Vigo, where a group of residents has requested a meeting with the mayor. “The pollution of Christmas lights is greater in towns than in cities, since tall buildings block it and low houses do not.” The researcher denounces that the current law on light pollution already sets limits that the city councils do not respect at Christmas or the rest of the year because “basically, nobody watches”. The academic, however, believes that the fight in favor of energy saving has greater enemies than Christmas lights: “I am not saying that spending on Christmas lights should not be taken into account, but there are many other areas that spend much more. An example are soccer fields,

Back in Vigo, in conversation with this newspaper two months ago, the mayor Abel Caballero resorted to the consumption of the Celta stadium, Balaidos, to defend the Christmas lights: “Its normal consumption in the month of January, between two and three games and Two practices, that’s the equivalent of all Christmas in the city.” The rest of the municipal officials insist on the same message, lowering the importance of the Christmas assembly in the savings objective. Which is not to say that they share an opinion on the width that these strings of colored lights should have.

Less light at German Christmas

Germany begins to open its famous Christmas markets assuming that this year they will be a little less bright, but almost as colorful and colorful despite the war in Ukraine. The call to save energy has permeated cities, which either reduce the number of lighting hours or promote the installation of more efficient led lamps. Nobody wants to give up the Christmas splendor and the traditional illuminated shopping streets, but complementary attractions, such as ice rinks, have been sacrificed. This is how Duisburg has done it, for example. In cities like Weimar they have switched to synthetic ice, which does not need electricity to stay cold.

The refusal of the Berlin Senate (city council) to co-finance the lights in the midst of the energy crisis endangered the lighting of the famous Kurfurstendamm boulevard. Finally, the merchants obtained the necessary sponsorships and donations and this week it was inaugurated with reduced hours from six in the afternoon [in Berlin it gets dark at four] until ten, one hour earlier than usual.

Energy sobriety prevails in the markets despite the fact that they are exempt from complying with the general regulations that prevent lighting public buildings, monuments or advertising signs for aesthetic reasons. In Stuttgart the green lights on the Christmas trees shine for 240 hours this year instead of 450 last year. Those who replaced the old lights with LEDs long ago, such as the very touristy markets in Munich, now breathe a sigh of relief. This is also the case in the Austrian capital, Vienna, which with 17 Christmas markets attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. After a 2020 without a market and a 2021 with a reduced edition, the lighting of his 28-meter Christmas fir tree has been quite an event. It is decorated with 1,600 lights, of course led.

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