Switching-off public night lighting: a new action for Pays de l’Albigeois et des Bastides, France. (PAB)

Published by Isabelle Meiffren on 08/10/2013

As part of the awareness training component of its Territorial Energy Climate Plan, the Pays de l’Albigeois et des Bastides organized a seminar on "the switching-off of  public night lighting" which brought together some sixty representatives and technicians  The central question: can’t we, at all, do without street lighting, at least during part of the night? How to arbitrate between the demands for renovation of an often under-maintained area and revision of lighting needs? After the seminar, many communities of the region have expressed their willingness to engage in an turn-off level. This issue will be thorough and probably enrich the Action Plan of Pays de l’Albigeois.

Ecological approach? Economic approach? Certainly, but not only!

Synonymous with modernity, street light weighs more and more heavily in the municipal budget (50% of electricity costs). An economic sensitivity, enhanced by the "crisis", which now joins the old demands of naturalists, doctors, and of course the energy companies involved in the fight against the waste of energy and climate change. For naturalists, physicians, all living beings need alternating day / night, or even dark. Nocturnal animals that hunt at night, are totally dependent on the same night to feed. In turn, the energy companies are concerned: in two decades, the number of bright spots increased in France over 60% while the population increased by only 11% over the same period. Do we really need all that light, all the time?

"This seminar provided an opportunity to provide a precise current state," says Julien Frat, leader of the Territorial Energy Climate Plan, and the seminar organizer. He has qualified some ideas. The first issue raised by the switching-off of public lighting is the responsibility of Mayors. Who choose to make it simple, and safer: light all night, wherever it seems necessary. However, there is no legal definition of public lighting, and the mayor has no obligation to provide lighting (except at dangerous points).

However, it must ensure the full functionality of the public lighting system when it is turned on.

The case law indicates that a mayor cannot be blamed for the lack of street lighting, if they do not have it installed in their community or the facts on which it is concerned take place during the "agreed hours "for switching-off its public lighting.

 Taking the decision to "not light" is so important, and it must be a resolution and a vote of the municipal executive, followed by a transfer to the state administration (Prefecture).

Then you have to make education for citizens and users, inform closely when a trial is launched on a neighborhood, or when the decision to shut down for all or part of the night is taken.

For many, it is the security that is threatened. Switching-off off the lights would facilitate burglaries.
However, the police and the gendarmerie note: the peaks of burglaries are between 10 and 16 hours, when people are away from home, not at night. This does not mean that there are none at night, whether or not illuminated, but it is not usually the case! In fact, these concerns rather talk to a real sense of insecurity, but cannot be reduced to the question of lighting: some well lit public spaces, neighborhoods, are still very anxiety provoking, while others, less lit, are not because they are more animated, less deserted ...

 Another concern for the people: the increase in road accidents: according to the National Association for the Protection of the night sky and environment (ANPCEN), which for many years has worked collecting studies on these topics, "Establishing a causal relationship to objective effect between the presence of an external lighting and fewer burglaries or accidents is impossible. Several examples and experiments conducted recently with the gendarmerie and the police, show that crime and incivility at night do not progress in a position of light extinction. The absence of light would on the contrary, slow motorists. "

Accidents, aren’t  they more caused by breach of the highway code: use of phone or drunk driving, ... rather than the lack or absence of street lighting?

Why blame the night, or something still criticized, roadside trees: for the cause of accidents, when in this case it is the speed or misconduct that is the key?

This seminar has shown that a decision to switch-off public lighting goes through "obligatory" stages the first being to make a test operation after a comprehensive diagnosis and a phased implementation over time.

  • Inventory of the "needs" of lighting and / or renovation of lighting by districts, technical audit of the status of equipment
  • Analysis of the marked areas (use of these spaces, level of danger), the police, the gendarmerie, traders, public transport services,
  • Study of technical solutions (beach and sunset times), and calculation of profits energy / climate
  • Choice of test zone
  • Information to residents and users: meetings, municipal and local press, signs at the entrances to towns, enhanced preventive signaling for motorists, …
  • Creation of a test
  • Obtain feedback from inhabitants, before expanding to other sectors.

 The switching-off period shall be determined according:

  • The day of the week
  • of the season (no reigniting of public lighting on summer mornings, for example ...)
  • organizing events in or around the community (Christmas festivities, festivals ...)

The OLEMPS community, in Aveyron (South France), tested the switching-off of public lighting in several areas of 0:00 to 5:00 in the morning. After a few months of experimentation, it was satisfactory: the lighting of these areas was cut at night definitely from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 am except on Saturday night.

Results :

  • Few negative reviews from the citizens
  • Many have not noticed the cut even after 6 months
  • No particular technical problem in the implementation
  • 30% savings in energy consumption in the neighborhood.

However, some technicians have the question of a possible accelerated wear of streetlights, a question that remains to be further investigated.

Key figures for France:

  • 9.5 million lights and 3 million lights illuminated:
  • Public lighting
    • Around 40-50% of the power consumption of Communities, 38% of the electricity bill, 20% of the total energy bill
    • Poorly maintained existing equipment with lights, outdated, poor quality, and often overpowering. The energy consumption for public lighting could be halved by improving the existing equipment.

More information (France)

Association Nationale pour la Protection du Ciel et de l’Environnement Nocturne

(Association Française de l’Eclairage

Législation et réglementation – Jurisprudence

Pays Albigeois et Bastides