Spanish city takes unusual approach to the energy crisis

Vigo, Spain – the city that introduced fines for swimmers urinating in the sea – will switch on huge festive illuminations this month, defying a national energy-saving drive. Graham Keeley discusses in an article on the inews website.

Spain town bucks energy saving trend with Christmas lights display in August

As Spain ordered its citizens to switch off lights to save energy, the mayor of Vigo took a very different approach by unveiling – in August – what he claimed will be the largest Christmas light display in the world.

Abel Caballero hopes to attract tourists to this fishing-port city in the north-western region of Galicia, with a spectacular show that is somewhat of an annual tradition.

However, critics claim the festive illuminations will bring exactly the wrong type of attention, making Spain appear a country of energy wasters just as millions struggle to pay soaring electricity bills.

The European Union has called on its 27 member countries to cut their energy consumption by 15 per cent in the face of Russia’s pullback on gas supplies, over sanctions the bloc placed on the Kremlin for its invasion of Ukraine.

This Wednesday the Spanish government will bring in a compulsory energy saving plan, despite criticism it could hurt tourism.

The plan requires air conditioning to be turned down in hotels, restaurants and stores, and restrictions in lighting after 10pm, to save between 4 and 5 per cent of Spain’s energy use, the government says.

Despite these initiatives, Mr Caballero is pressing ahead with his plan, claiming that his Christmas display will save energy because the council is using LED rather than conventional lights.

The display will feature a giant 14-metre star, and 11 million lights in 400 streets.

It has been trending on social media, with the satirical website El Mundo Today joking that the government’s energy-saving measures include putting out the Vigo Christmas lights.

Mr Caballero tweeted last week: “We will start the installation of the Christmas lights. An incredible Christmas, with all the world invited to come to Vigo.”

Serafín González, a member of the Spanish National Research Council and president of the Galician Society of Natural History, refuted the mayor’s claim that the extravangza would be energy-efficient, saying that turning the city into one huge Christmas display would mean using much more power.

“Everyone would agree that the logical thing to do is to get a more efficient lighting system that consumes less. But here, in a completely insane way, just the opposite has been done,” he told El País, a Spanish newspaper.

“We managed to reduce energy consumption by 70 per cent by putting in LED lights [but] now we are going to put in 70 per cent more lights and start a race to put up more and more lights as if more were better.”

He claimed that the energy used for the Christmas lights could provide enough power for 35 homes during a year.

Mr González was also concerned how Vigo’s example will make Spain appear to EU neighbours and Ukraine.

“You will see an example of waste and lack of solidarity on the part of this country. We must remember that we must show support to a country that is at war to defend its democracy,” he added.

The i tried to contact Mr Caballero’s office but did not receive a reply.

Vigo became world-famous last month when it introduced fines for swimmers who urinate in the sea, although it did not explain how it would enforce the plan.

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5 thoughts on “Spanish city takes unusual approach to the energy crisis

  1. If the clawed objective really was just to remind everybody of this town’s existence, given the publicity Vigo has already received for its Quixotic decision to illuminate Christmas decorations in August, presumably the mayor has now shut them off? Might be worth checking….

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