Municipalities switching off street lights in electricity cost-saving move

Street lights in Estonia (photo is illustrative).
Street lights in Estonia (photo is illustrative). Source: Ahto Sooaru

Municipalities in Estonia are cutting down on street-lighting given the continuing high electricity prices, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Friday night, with one saving money by switching off street lights from midnight until early the next morning.

As reported by ERR News, the measure has already been taken in the South Estonian town of Viljandi, while mayor of Lääne-Harju municipality, near the capital, said similar measures are being put in place there after an 80 percent year-on-year rise in price on December's electricity bill.

Municipal mayor Jaanus Saat told AK that: "Our first calculation results should show that we save, for example, €5,000 over a year by switching off the street lights in the center of [the village of] Padise," adding that the sum was only a small portion of the municipality's total bill for December, with three months of winter bills still to go.

The quickest way to do this is to switch off the lights – Tallinn has already done the same with its non-essential Christmas lights, nearly a month after the western Christmas – which will see Lääne-Harju municipality's largest population center, the port city of Paldiski, population 3,500, in relative darkness.

The lights go out at midnight, while the local Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) patrols will pay more attention to blacked-out zones in the interests of safety and security.

The street lights come back on at 5.30 a.m., in time for the first public transport services of the day.

One local Paldiski resident expressed resentment at the move, however.

"If everyone is saving now, and are asking for compensation, then why does the local government have to do this, just because their bills are also high," Snežanna told AK.

Local government was originally tasked with an energy bill compensation measure for electricity, natural gas and district heating bills for lower income people, but this measure has now been taken over by the state and includes more well-off households within its scope, leaving just district heating bills eligible for compensation via a local authority.

Another, Pavel, said: "It's dark in winter, so the lights have to be on, especially since it's slippery. People are starting to fall, and many are having to go to ER."

Keeping roads clear of snow or ice is the responsibility of local government, though the same is not the case for the sidewalks, the location of many mishaps, as this has long been devolved to property owners, who are required to keep public walkways adjacent to their buildings free of snow and ice, or pay a fine.

The municipality says it will review the situation regarding both security and public resentment over time.

Sunrise in Harju County on Saturday came just before 8.49 a.m., while sunset on the same day is a little after 4.12 p.m. The corresponding times in the shortest day in December 2021, and for the whole year, i.e. December 21, were just before 9.15 a.m. and just before 3.20 p.m. respectively.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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