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Lights off, heating on? That's where Habeck's neon sign idea fails

Actually, the matter is clear: since September 1st, all illuminated billboards have to remain switched off at night and for most of the day.

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Lights off, heating on? That's where Habeck's neon sign idea fails

Actually, the matter is clear: since September 1st, all illuminated billboards have to remain switched off at night and for most of the day. Between 10 p.m. and 4 p.m., “illuminated or light-emitting advertising systems” should not be operated, according to the Ordinance to Secure the Energy Supply on Short-Term Measures (EnSikuMaV) by Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens). This is how electricity is to be saved during the energy crisis. But the implementation is apparently not as easy as the ministry imagined.

On the one hand, this is due to the sheer number of illuminated billboards. Around 92,500 advertising systems are affected by the lighting ban, according to the responsible professional association for outdoor advertising (FAW). The industry is currently busy implementing the requirement. The companies are making an effort, but the regulation cannot be implemented that easily in practice.

"By far the largest part of the systems affected are analog advertising media that have so far been equipped with an automatic twilight function," says managing director Kai-Marcus Thäsler. "This twilight control must be replaced by an electrician with a timer on each individual area."

In addition, the lighting in all glazed advertising systems is a heat source, especially in the wet and cold season, which prevents the display panels from fogging up and freezing over. "In order to prevent permanent damage to the systems, heating systems would have to be installed instead of the lighting, but their energy requirements would be many times greater," argues the FAW managing director. This would finally reduce the meaning of the Energy Saving Ordinance ad absurdum if such heating systems were actually installed.

However, that seems extremely unlikely, because the conversion would probably take longer anyway than the energy saving regulation from Habeck applies. The lighting ban will end again at the end of February 2023.

According to the FAW, there is a lack of both the necessary materials and the skilled workers to quickly carry out the necessary work. "We pointed this out to the legislator at a very early stage," says Thäsler. "We have to assume that the nationwide conversion will take several months." The FAW member companies are aware of the content of the ordinance and are trying to implement the shutdown "as quickly as possible across the board".

The lighting ban could have significant financial consequences for the industry if advertisers choose not to pay, or only want to pay less. After all, your adverts will not be visible for so long on what is known in technical jargon as OOH systems. OOH stands for the English term "Out of Home" and describes forms of advertising in public spaces. According to the FAW, it is still too early to quantify the economic consequences.

"To begin with, a lot will depend on the extent to which the customers of our medium are willing to support the goals of the regulation and we will find a solution together with them as to how the temporarily limited performance of OOH can be compensated for in the interests of the customers," says Thäsler. "Here, our member companies are in intensive discussions with their customers."

Basically, the billboards are "one of the most energy-efficient media," says the FAW managing director. "Every euro of advertising that would be shifted from OOH to other media as a result of the regulation would run counter to the objectives of the regulation."

According to the association, it is not possible to quantify how much electricity can be saved by switching off the lighting, the electricity consumption of the advertising boards is subject to the company's trade secret. According to the Economics Ministry, the ordinance should save a total of around two percent of energy.

In addition to the lighting ban, numerous other measures such as the heating ban for private pools also contribute to this. "But it is already clear," says Thäsler, "that the costs for the described technical conversion of the advertising media, both in terms of energy consumption and the investments required, will far exceed the savings that can be achieved."

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