ensures that it will save while packing the city with 11 million LEDs for Christmas

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Perhaps you have already noticed it this morning, when walking through the streets of your city. And if not, don’t worry, in all likelihood you will notice it over the next few days and weeks. Spain fades. Businesses and public buildings have begun to apply the Government’s saving plan, controlling the use of air conditioning and disconnecting shop windows at night.

While the country look at the thermostats and the clock to monitor the hours, in Vigo the installation of 11 million LED lightsa hyperbolic deployment with which it is preparing to revalidate itself as the city with “the best Christmas on the planet”, in the words of its mayor, Abel Caballero.

Did I waste? Armor of a brand that has been gaining fame and economic impact over the years? An unfortunate decision given the context, with much of the country above 30º and when Brussels and the Government ask businesses to tighten their belts? The debate is served. And the arguments, on the table. For now, Caballero claims to have almost squared the energy circle: saving 14.5% while filling the city with LEDs.

First, the context.. It is not the first time that Vigo has started the assembly of the Christmas lighting in August. For years, in fact, the usual thing is to get down to work towards the middle of the summer, a decision that has so much logistics —unfurl 3,000 bows and huge light fixtures is not something that can be left to the last minute—like marketing.

If Vigo’s Christmas has managed to become a national pull brand and stand out with some frequency as trending topic It is largely because a few years ago, in 2018, Caballero went viral the presentation of the “top” parties of the planet, in their own words. Also then the assembly started in the middle of summer. And also then it generated a notable media duststorm.

Things today, however, are quite different.. The growing risk that Moscow will cut off the gas supply, inflation and the need to prepare for winter have led Brussels to draw up an energy plan with a clear and already fully palpable reflection in Spain: since this past midnight, there are buildings that The Government’s saving measures are applied, such as the regulation of indoor air conditioning or the switching off of lighting in public buildings and shop windows at night. The goal: to reduce gas consumption in the country by around 7%.

What happens in Vigo? The backdrop is not the best for Vigo, stuck for years in promoting their Christmases as “the best on the planet”. The olive city, in which the festivities passed until recently without pain or glory, with balances of discreet visitors in the best of cases, has managed to make Christmas one of its hallmarks. And an important economic engine. Very seasonal, barely two months; but important, of course.

Caballero assures that Christmas attracts “2.2 million visitors” and yesterday he claimed during an interview in La Sexta which leaves a return of “close to one billion euros”. An objective fact provided by the INE: in December 2019 the hotels of Vigo accommodated 46,100 people, during the same month of 2016, when the Vigo parties barely had a pull beyond the city, there were 22,900. The lighting is activated at the end of november and lasts the first half of January.

To achieve this, the City Council dedicates a considerable amount of resources to the campaign and draws up long-term planning, which it frequently displays. As required The voice of Galicia, at Christmas 2018-2019 Vigo signed a contract with the lighting firm Ximénez for three seasons and around 2.5 million euros. In total, the Galician newspaper calculates that the bill for last year’s festivities, between the nativity scene, decoration, vegetation or public address system, was around 1.3 million.

The data on the table. Vigo wants to deploy this year 11 million LED lights throughout the municipality, as many as in 2021. The deployment planned by the City Council includes 3,000 bows and a 14-meter polar star, claims to which others will probably be added that have been repeated for several years, such as a huge Ferris wheel, market, nativity scenes, attractions and various illuminated Christmas trees, including an artificial one, made up exclusively of thousands of LED lights, and another natural, in the middle of the central alameda, which exceeds 30 meters in height.

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What energy expenditure does it entail? The City Council defends that this year it will delay the ignition for half an hour and advance the shutdown another 30 minutes, which will allow it to cut an hour and save consumption about 14%, “double what the Government and Europe proposes”, ditches the mayor of Olívico. Yesterday at La Sexta pointed to 14.5% and slipped that it could be greater if necessary.

During an interview on Tele5, Caballero specified that the comparison, yes, is made with the consumption of last Christmas and does not detail how many kilowatts the 11 million LEDs require. From the local government, only the economic cost is specified: 30,000 euros in 2021. The data, he clarifies, represents half of what can be allocated in subsidies to a local club. As for electricity, he wields that it is less than a stadium requires 30,000 seats in January.

The background debate: the savings-economy equation. The underlying debate goes far beyond Christmas, the lights of Vigo or XXL trees full of light bulbs. The challenge is how to combine energy saving and economy. Caballero defends that Christmas is tourism and generates wealth and employment: “It is an economic activity like any other and that is how it should be approached.”

“LED lights practically do not consume, but they generate hundreds and hundreds of millions of euros in economy and this is a very important activity, with 2.2 million visitors. The activity can be maintained by saving twice what Europe asks of Spain” , claims the alderman, who even goes further and points to the international stage: “If we remove Christmas, Putin would win.”

Vigo, the city of Christmas lights... and the "one thousand" ramps, belts and mechanical lifts

Reviews that go beyond Christmas. Not everyone sees it the same. There are those who warn of the cost in terms of image that it could have for Spain to reach December showing off to the rest of its European partners the most illuminated city in the world and question the appropriateness of Vigo maintaining its strategy in an exceptional scenario caused by a war .

Serafín González, from the CSIC and the Galician Society of Natural History, points to The country the contradiction that Vigo bet on LEDs for its public lighting in order to save energy while firing each year with a deployment of 11 million lights: “Since we managed to reduce energy consumption by 70% by putting LEDs, now we are going to put 70% more lights and get into a runaway race installing more and more lighting as if more is better.”

An image issue? Regarding the rest of the EU countries, alert: “You will see an example of waste and lack of solidarity. We must remember that we must show support for a country that is at war to defend its democracy.” According to his calculations, the energy consumed by the Christmas lights in Vigo could cover the annual bill of 35 families. If the same logic were applied in the rest of the country’s cities, energy would be obtained to cover the needs of 5,000 homes.

Images | City Council of Vigo Y J. Carlos Nesta (Flickr)

Perhaps you have already noticed it this morning, when walking through the streets of your city. And if not, don’t…

Perhaps you have already noticed it this morning, when walking through the streets of your city. And if not, don’t…

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