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ENERGY

Will France have Christmas light displays this year?

The message in France this winter is all about turning out the lights, as the country aims to cut its energy use by 10 percent to get through the winter without Russian gas - so what does this mean for traditional Christmas lights displays and light festivals?

Will France have Christmas light displays this year?
Christmas lights on the Champs-Elysee in Paris. Photo by Stefano RELLANDINI / AFP

The French government’s sobriété enérgetique (energy-saving) plan for winter has plenty to say about lights – people are advised to turn off the light in any room they’re not using, while local authorities will be switching off early the lighting on monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and even street lights in some areas.

Even the famously opulent palace of Versailles – which gives rise to the phrase C’est pas Versailles ici (meaning, turn the lights off, we’re not millionaires) – will turn down its lighting this winter.

READ ALSO All the ways that France’s ‘energy saving’ plan could impact your life

So what does this mean for the popular Christmas light displays that most French towns put on in late November and December? Or Lyon’s famous Festival of Lights? 

Paris 

Perhaps the best-known Christmas lights display is on the Champs-Elysée – 4km of lights with 20,000 bulbs.

This week, organisers confirmed that the traditional display will go ahead, but with two important modifications; the lights will be switched off at 11.45pm each night – two hours and 15 minutes earlier than previous years – and the display will be up for six weeks instead of the usual seven.

The head of Blachère Illuminations, which creates the Champs-Elysée display – says that thanks to LED lightbulbs, the display actually uses surprisingly little electricity, costing €50-€60 a day in power bills. 

The display will be switched on on Sunday, November 20th by actor Tahar Rahim.

Reduced displays

In most big cities, local authorities have adopted similar plans- festive lights displays will happen, but in a pared-down form.

For a large city, Christmas lights represent only around 0.2 percent of their annual electricity usage – but while savings may be minimal, many mayors have spoken of wanting to set an example through small gestures.

Strasbourg – the town that bills itself ‘France’s capital of Christmas’ is going ahead with its display, but with 10-20 percent fewer bulbs than usual. The display will also end on January 8th – one week earlier than normal – and lights will be turned off at 11pm instead of midnight.

Bordeaux – the deputy mayor of Bordeaux said: “We plan to keep the same illuminations as last year but reduce the lighting time.” In practice this means beginning on December 9th, two weeks later than usual, and turning the lights off between 1am and 7am.

Toulouse – the light display will be two weeks shorter than usual – turning on one week later in December and off one week earlier in January.

Caen – the Normandy town will also be turning off lights early, at 11pm instead of midnight.

Cancellations

But some towns have announced that they will cancel the displays altogether. Municipalities that have announced a total cancellation include Morbihan and Quimper in Brittany, Béthune in Pas-de-Calais and Boussy-Saint-Antoine in Essonne. 

One of the displays at the 2018 festival of light in Lyon. Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP

Lyon festival

But undoubtedly the most beautiful light display in France is in Lyon, when the whole town is given over the the Fête des Lumières (festival of lights) in early December.

This year’s festival – running from Thursday, December 8th to Sunday, December 11th, will go ahead, local authorities have confirmed, with around 30 sites illuminated in astonishing displays of light and colour, often accompanied by music.

City authorities, confirming that the festival will go ahead, said that the 30 displays over five nights represent “a drop in the ocean” of the town’s annual energy use, while the festival brings in thousands of visitors.

Deputy mayor Sylvain Godinot, said: “The impact of the Festival of Lights on the city of Lyon’s energy consumption is absolutely marginal, which is what allows us to maintain it.

“These are installations that have evolved a lot technologically with lighting designed with a lot of LEDs that ultimately consume very little energy.”

The city’s usual Christmas lights will also go ahead, but will be switched on one week later and switched off one week earlier.

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DRIVING

Péage: Toll rates for motorists in France to increase in 2023

France's Ministry of Transport has announced that toll-fees will increase in 2023. Here is what motorists in France can expect.

Péage: Toll rates for motorists in France to increase in 2023

With French motorists already expecting increases in fuel prices starting in January, the cost of travel on many of France’s motorways will also increase in 2023.

Toll rates on the main routes across France are set to go up by an average of 4.75 percent starting on February 1st, according to an announcement by the Ministry of Transport on Friday.

These rates already rose by two percent in 2022. 

While the increase is still lower than the rate of inflation (six percent), motorists in France can still expect driving to become more expensive in 2023, as the government does away with its broad-scale fuel rebate (€0.10 off the litre) at the start of January.

As of early December, the French government was still discussing plans for how to replace the fuel rebate. The Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, told Les Echoes in November that the government was considering a targeted, means-tested “fuel allowance” for workers who depend on their vehicles to commute to and from work. 

How much will I be affected?

The degree to which drivers will experience increased costs depends largely on what kind of vehicle they use, in addition to how far you plan to drive on the toll-road. 

Vehicles are broadly classified as follows:

Class 1 (Light vehicles): these are cars and minivans. This class also includes vehicles pulling trailers with a combined height of no more than 2m and a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of less than or equal to 3.5 tonnes.
Class 2: Large utility vehicles and camping cars
Class 3: Heavy goods vehicles, coaches, other 2-axle vehicles, motorhomes taller than 3m
Class 4: Vehicles taller than 3m with a GVW greater than 3.5 tonnes
Class 5: Motorbikes, sidecars, quad bikes, three-wheeled motor vehicles 

The next determining factor for how significant the price rise will be depends on which company is operating the road you use, and there are several different companies that operate toll-roads in France. 

Each year, toll (péage) prices in France are adjusted and re-evaluated for the following year on February 1st, following discussions between the government and the main companies that operate the French freeways. The fees are in part used for road maintenance costs. 

To estimate the cost of tolls for your next French road trip, you can use the calculator on this website

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