Turn the lights off: Darker motorways to save energy

Turn the lights off: Darker motorways to save energy
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While regional governments and companies cut back on energy expenditure, Belgium’s streets and highways remain brightly lit at night due to safety regulations.

A new proposal by the Walloon government for Wednesday's Consultation Committee (Codeco) will seek to make substantial energy savings by turning off some of these lights at night, Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure reports.

In Belgium, there are some 22 million streetlights, many of which remain on throughout the night. Belgium is so well-lit that the brightness of the country can be observed from space, in contrast to some of its neighbours. Lighting on certain roads and motorway slipways is viewed as a safety measure.

Smart lights for big savings

Wallonia’s Lumières 4.0 plan would see some of these lights turned off or at least dimmed at quiet periods of the night to preserve energy. Certain stretches of road are almost completely unused during the night and may not be worth lighting.

The plan would replace lighting along 2,700 kilometres of Walloon road infrastructure network with intelligent and inexpensive lighting which would automatically dim at certain times of the night and according to traffic levels. Project partner LuWa states that this new adaptive system would achieve 76% energy savings over traditional lighting.

In Flanders, around half of motorways are now completely unlit during the night and a similar adaptive system is already in place. This arrangement is said to save the region around €2 million per year.

The Belgian Road Safety Institute states that unlit motorways do not negatively affect road safety. In fact, they claim that lit motorways can often lull drivers into a “false sense of security”, making drivers less cautious.

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To set an example, Wallonia has also begun to switch off lights in official buildings, such as the Elysette building in Namur.

On the federal level, the government is planning to remove all non-LED lighting from government buildings to save energy against the backdrop of high energy costs. Some Federal Public Services also plan to reduce the occupancy rates of some buildings and adjust their use of heating, cooling, and lighting.

Across the border in Germany, local governments have also chosen to turn off lighting on Germany’s government buildings and national monuments in a bid to save energy.

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