Flemish towns and cities in the dark after 11PM?

It’s not only households that are facing steeper energy bills.  Local authorities too are eyeing rising energy prices and many are already taking action.  VRT Radio 2 quizzed mayors in Flanders and Brussels about their plans. The costliest item on local authority energy bills is public lighting.  123 of the 134 mayors that responded to VRT have plans to cut street lighting or have already implemented cuts.

Smaller municipalities estimate that turning off street lighting between 11PM and 5AM could save between 120,000 and 180,000 euros a year.  A larger town like Deinze (East Flanders) believes the measure will reduce the bill by around 400,000 euros. Across Flanders the measure could save around 50 million euros.

Many municipalities see the energy crisis as an opportunity to update infrastructure and switch to LED lighting.  LED bulbs last longer, can be regulated remotely and use less energy. Several mayors point to the savings already accomplished by earlier shifts.

At present a third of Flemish street lighting is LED.  By 2030 all public lighting should be LED.

Public lighting is organised over municipal boundaries and towns and cities will have to agree among themselves which measures they take. 

Network operator Fluvius has already asked all municipalities if they wish to cut street lighting between 11PM and 5AM except on Fridays and Saturdays. So far, few municipalities have responded.

A more selective approach cutting the lighting in particular streets or neighbourhoods and keeping it on elsewhere will require more time to be implemented the network operator says and will be more expensive too.

Most mayors favour a more targeted approach.  They fear more people will feel unsafe out on the streets, though an experiment in Ieper(West Flanders) in 2016 didn’t reveal any actual rise in crime.  Scientists do say that women, children and seniors will be more concerned to go out after dark.  Fewer will do so and social checks will be reduced even further.

In addition to public lighting swimming pools and care homes result in the highest energy bills for local authorities but street lighting is by far the costliest item.

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