Sober or brilliant? Europe faces holidays during the energy crisis | News, Sports, Jobs

FILE – Local authorities inaugurate Christmas lighting on the streets of Vigo, Spain, on November 19, 2022. In cities across Europe, officials are fighting to choose this Christmas. Dim lighting plans to send a message of energy conservation and solidarity with citizens pressured by both higher energy costs and inflation or let the lights shine on a message of defiance after two years of holiday seasons suppressed by the pandemic, creating a mood that retailers hope will ease over the holidays. purses (AP Photo/Lalo R. Villar, File)

VERONA, Italy (AP) — Early-season revelers sipping mulled wine and buying Christmas decorations packed the Verona Christmas market on its opening weekend. But beyond the wooden market stalls, the Italian city has yet to deck its granite-clad pedestrian streets with twinkling Christmas lights as officials debate just how bright the season is during an energy crisis.

In cities across Europe, officials are wrestling with a choice, as energy prices have risen due to Russia’s war in Ukraine: dim Christmas lighting to send a message of energy conservation and solidarity with affected citizens. by rising utility bills and inflation, while protecting public coffers. . Or let the lights shine on a message of defiance after two years of holiday seasons suppressed by the pandemic, lighting up cities with holiday cheer that retailers hope will loosen the strings on people’s wallets.

“If they take out the lights, they better turn off Christmas”, said Estrella Puerto, who sells traditional Spanish mantillas, or women’s veils, in a small shop in Granada, Spain, and says the Christmas decorations attract business.

Fewer lights shine on the central tree of Strasbourg’s famous Christmas market, which attracts 2 million people each year, as the French city seeks to reduce public energy consumption by 10% this year.

From Paris to London, city officials are limiting Christmas lighting hours, and many have switched to more energy-efficient LED lights or renewable energy sources.

London’s Oxford Street shopping district hopes to cut energy consumption by two-thirds by limiting its lights to 3:00pm to 11:00pm and installing LED bulbs.

“Ecologically speaking, it’s the only real solution,” said Marie Breguet, 26, a Paris resident, as she strolled along the Champs-Elysees, which are lit only until 11:45 p.m., instead of 2 a.m. like at Christmas. past. “War and energy contraction is a reality. No one will get hurt with a little less illuminations this year.”

Lights go out along Budapest’s Andrassy Avenue, often known as Hungary’s Champs-Elysees, which authorities decided would not be bathed in more than 2 kilometers (1.5 miles) of white lights as in previous years . Lighting is also being cut at city landmarks, including bridges over the Danube river.

“Saving on decorative lighting has to do with the fact that we are living in times when we need every drop of energy,” said Budapest Deputy Mayor Ambrus Kiss.

He doesn’t think saving on lighting will deter tourists from coming to the city, which has two Christmas markets that draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

“I think it’s an exaggerated debate,” he said.

The festive lights, made up of LEDs this year, will also be dimmed from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. in the center of the old city of Brasov, in central Romania, and turned off elsewhere, authorities said.

The crisis, triggered in large part by Russia cutting off most natural gas in Europe, is spawning innovation. In the Italian mountain town of Borno, in Lombardy, cyclists on stationary bikes will power the town’s Christmas tree by powering batteries with kinetic energy. Anyone can ride, and the faster they pedal, the brighter the lights. Christmas lights will not be installed anywhere else in the city to raise awareness about energy conservation, officials said.

In Italy, many cities traditionally light Christmas trees in public squares on December 8, the holiday of the Immaculate Conception, still allowing time to devise plans for festive street displays.

Officials in the northern city of Verona are discussing limiting lighting to just a few key commercial streets and using the savings to help families in need.

“In Verona, the atmosphere is there anyway,” said Giancarlo Peschiera, whose fur coat shop overlooks Verona’s Piazza Bra, where officials on Saturday lit a huge shooting star that arced from the Arena della amphitheater. the Roman era towards the square.

The city will also put up a Christmas tree in the main square and a Christmas cake maker has erected trees festooned with lights in three other locations.

“We can do without the lights. There are Christmas stalls, and the windows are decked out for the holidays”, Peschiera said.

After two Christmases under COVID-19 restrictions, some are calling “bah humbug” about conservation efforts.

“It’s not Christmas all year,” said Alice Betout, 39, of Paris. “Why can’t we just enjoy the festive season as usual and save (energy) the rest of the year?

The holiday will shine brightly in Germany, where the holiday season is a big boost for retailers and restaurants. Emergency cutbacks announced this fall specifically excluded religious lighting, “particularly Christmas lighting,” even as environmental activists called for restraint.

“Many gardens look like something out of an American Christmas movie,” Environmental Action Germany complained.

In Spain, the northwestern port city of Vigo is not letting the energy crisis get in the way of its tradition of hosting the country’s most extravagant Christmas light display. Ahead of other cities, Vigo turned on the light show on November 19 in what has become a major tourist attraction.

Despite the central government urging cities to reduce lighting, this year’s installation consists of 11 million LED lights in more than 400 streets, 30 more than last year and far more than any other Spanish city. In a small contribution to energy savings, they will stay on for one less hour each day.

The lights are Mayor Abel Caballero’s pet project. “If we didn’t celebrate Christmas, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin would win” he said.

Caballero says that the economic return is vital, both for commerce and for the businesses of Vigo. Hotels in and around the city were fully booked for the lighting launch and are expected to be close to 100% every week.

Germany’s Christmas markets have slashed numbers that could make any Grinch heart lighting grow at least three sizes.

The market’s exhibitors’ association said a family visit to the Christmas market consumes less energy than staying at home. A family of four spending an hour cooking dinner on an electric stove, streaming a two-hour movie, using a game console, and lighting the children’s rooms would use 0.711 kilowatt-hours per person versus 0.1 to 0, 2 kilowatt-hours per person. to walk through a Christmas market.

“If people stay at home, don’t sit in a corner in the dark,” said Frank Hakelberg, CEO of the German Spectator Association. “Couch couch potatoes consume more energy than when they are at a Christmas market.”


Associated Press reporters Thomas Adamson in Paris; David McHugh in Frankfurt, Germany; Ciaran Gilles in Madrid; Justin Spike in Budapest; Giovanna Dell’Orto in Granada, Spain; Courtney Bonnell in London; and Stephen McGrath in Brasov, Romania contributed.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press.

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