While going on a midnight drive with the BF last night (ok, so it was more like 1-3...), I noticed that pretty much every building that housed a chain store of some sort, was going through electricity like it was water. They had lights on inside, some had TVs or some other form of media playing, and just... SO MUCH! We wound up spending quite a bit of time discussing this, as energy consumption is something that I care about, and thinking of new things is a joy to my BF.
We could see several reasons for having these lights on all night, not in the least being the possibility of "Emergency Lights", which are often run with no input from the store, but the building management controls that. I work in such a store. We could also see it being that company policy is not to trust local management, and so, not even have faith in their abilities to turn lights on and off properly; that it is cheaper in the long run to pay for more electricity than to pay for training of employees. That thought just saddens me. Another possible reason could be for safety regulations; but as there is NO ONE in the store, I see this as less likely -- but you never know with Big Business! Anything to prevent one more lawsuit... And a final reason that we came up with, was for advertisement purposes. "Look! I'm a store! I'm closed, but you should come back when I'm open!"
There are easier ways to handle Emergency Lights; I once worked for a company where the Emergency Lights ONLY came on when all power was off, and it ran on generators. Much healthier for everyone. The not trusting management or employees to not be able to turn on or off lights... what the hell kind of people used to work for places like this way back when, to make this standard company policy?! There's a REALLY simple test to figure out if you've closed up properly. While locking the door, facing the building, look in through the door or window. See a light? You screwed up. The Safety Regulations gig... there have got to be better ways to handle that. For advertisements? Have your sign lit, if you really need it. But 9 out of 10 roads that have Big Business located.. on it have street lights -- you can see any building you need!
In discussing this with the BF, we came up with two approaches to try to control this. Work at business awareness with the green movement, or work with government regulations to change how one purchases electricity. Frankly, factor in the pollution involved. I brought up an argument that I believe Greenpa put forth; have a sliding scale of payment. If you use x amount, it's $n. If you use 2x, it's $n^2. Etc. The only problem with this, is that it has renewable resources on par with nonrenewable resources. So, have it COST more to use coal or oil in lieu of water or wind. That will perhaps make it more likely to fix this problem of overusing electricity by hitting business where it hurts: profit.
Working for business awareness I see as a more tricky way to go -- once you get the ball rolling, it'll be easier for more and more businesses to follow the trend, but it's STARTING the momentum that's the problem. But, the winds of change are in the air -- more and more green regulations are going out (not necessarily working properly, or in the right direction, but it's THINKING about it).
I'm not sure what I'm trying to say with this post, other than it had never occurred to me how pervasive the feel of "energy is cheap! why think about it?" is in this country. If guerrilla work with a baseball bat one night would change things, guess where I'd be at 3 am every night...