Berlin monuments fall dark to save energy

The city of Berlin started switching off spotlights illuminating its historic monuments as part of a national effort to save energy in the face of Russian gas shortages.

The Berlin Cathedral or Berliner Dom will no longer be illuminated to save energy.
The Berlin Cathedral or Berliner Dom will no longer be illuminated to save energy. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Paul Zinken

Some 200 buildings and landmarks including Berlin’s red-brick city hall, State Opera House, Berlin Cathedral, the Memorial Church, and Charlottenburg Palace will fall in darkness at night, officials in the German capital said this week.

“Given the war against Ukraine and the energy policy threats by Russia, it’s important that we be as careful as possible with our energy,” the city’s chief official for the environment, Bettina Jarasch, said on Wednesday.

Jarasch of the Green party said that included consumers and industry but also public institutions, calling the darkened monuments “the right thing to do to make a visible contribution”.

READ ALSO: ‘Difficult winters ahead’: Germany sets out emergency energy saving measures

The policy at first affected six monuments from Wednesday night and will eventually encompass 200 buildings and landmarks and their 1,400 spotlights over the next four weeks, Jarasch’s office said.

An electrical services firm will shut off 100-120 lights per day without dismantling them, keeping the policy temporary.

Thus the cash-strapped capital will not save money as the labour costs are expected to match the benefit of cutting energy use.

A statue on Berlin's Unter den Linden is no longer illuminated.

A statue on Berlin’s Unter den Linden is no longer illuminated. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Paul Zinken

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said this week he wanted to set an example by keeping his official residence, Bellevue Palace in Berlin’s
sprawling Tiergarten park, dark at night.

Several German cities have said they would step up efforts to trim the use of power and gas.

The centre-left-led government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for weeks for a national effort to save energy amid soaring prices due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

German officials have also warned that the Kremlin could cut off supplies this winter in retaliation for biting Western sanctions against Moscow over the war.

The energy-savings efforts include reducing the use of air conditioning, encouraging use of public transport and pushing the use of more efficient shower heads.

READ ALSO: 8 simple ways you can save on heating costs in Germany

Before the Ukraine war, Germany bought 55 percent of its natural gas from Russia.

Although the rate had fallen to 35 percent by early June, Europe’s top economy is still heavily dependent on Russia for its energy, which it says Moscow is using as a “weapon”.

On Wednesday, Russian state-run energy giant Gazprom slashed deliveries of gas through the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany to 20 percent of capacity from the previous 40 percent.

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Germany to turn thermostat down as gas shortage looms

Germany will limit heating in public buildings over the winter to save on gas as Russia throttles supplies to Europe, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Friday.

Germany to turn thermostat down as gas shortage looms

“Public properties – with the exception of hospitals and other parts of the social system, of course – will only be heated to 19C,” Habeck told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung in an interview.

Public buildings and monuments will also not be lit at night, a measure already taken individually by some cities, as Germany searches for ways to save energy.

READ ALSO: Cold showers to turning off lights: How German cities are saving energy

The recent reduction of gas supplies from Russia, amid tensions over the invasion of Ukraine, has forced the government to act.

Europe’s largest economy, which relies heavily on gas to heat homes and power industry, is trying to wean itself off Russian imports, while avoiding shortages over the winter.

The government has mandated gas storage facilities to be filled almost fully by December and restarted mothballed coal-power plants to take the strain off gas-fired units.

A public information drive has been launched and the government has also subsidised public transport over the summer.

Among the other measures decided in July was a move to ban the heating of private pools with gas.

Habeck, who has said he personally is taking shorter showers to save hot water, said that “more energy savings are needed in the world of work, too.”