Many public buildings and monuments in Austria could end up staying dark this year's winter

Austria dims the lights to save gas for the winter

Austria dims the lights to save gas for the winter

In July, the country’s gas storage is about 45% full, meaning many municipalities would have to save energy

Last week, Russia’s Gazprom told its European customers that it would not be able to guarantee gas supplies in the near future due to ‘extraordinary’ circumstances. Many EU countries have begun to implement energy savings measures, as a result, to ensure they have enough natural gas for the winter.

In the case of Austria, according to data portal Statista, the country’s gas storage capacity was filled at around 45.2% in July. This reality, along with the fact that Gazprom supplies 80% of Austria’s gas needs, has left many local and federal state representatives with no other choice but to implement savings measures, including a so-called ‘energy curfew’.

Some things do not need to be lit up at night

One of the central figures to kick off the energy savings debate in Austria was Stephan Pernkopf, Deputy Governor of Lower Austria, who called for a state-wide energy curfew on both municipal and private consumption.

As ORF, the Austrian national broadcasting service reports, Pernkopf explained that asking for cuts was a serious matter, however, with both the inflation and gas crisis, maybe people would consider saving energy for the coming autumn and winter when days are shorter and temperatures are lower.

Pernkopf said that he did not understand why parking lots and shop windows, for example, were illuminated at night. Although the state is still far off from implementing an official law on the matter, he said that this legislation would not be too restrictive and would look at areas where consumption cuts made sense.

As he put it, people would be able to use lights at night, but would also have to turn them off sooner.

Municipal measures to curb energy consumption

All the measures that local authorities in Austria are considering revolve around two key principles – one is that safety must be guaranteed and the other is that the legal framework of the measures has to fit all stakeholders’ needs. With that being said, officials are considering turning off street lights at midnight and relying more on LEDs, as well as cutting beauty lighting on some illuminated buildings.

These measures follow a similar trajectory to what some smaller Bulgarian cities had to do to conserve electricity last winter. There, in January 2022, many small cash-strapped towns had to turn off public lights due to the explosion of electricity prices, and insufficient budgets to pay their bills. In Austria, however, the measures have more to do with conserving raw materials as opposed to saving money.

Some communities are already turning off the lights. Wiener Neustadt’s local cathedral, Theresian Military Academy and water tower will not be illuminated at all for the time being, according to City Councillor Franz Dinhobl.

In Mödling, the city will turn off the lights on the local St. Othmar Church as well as the ground spotlights in the local pedestrian zone. St. Pölten officials, however, say that they cannot turn off many lights, because the municipality does not have monuments that are sufficiently lit as to make much of a difference.



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