This letter, organised by Adfree Cities, was sent to the Secretary of Sate for Energy Security and Net Zero in January 2024 alongside a petition with 1,333 individual signatures.

Dear Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero,

Last winter, Ofgem and National Grid warned that the UK faced a significant risk of gas shortages, and that power cuts could leave homes without electricity.[1] This year is no different.[2] 

But even as energy rationing looms for households, digital billboards continue to use huge amounts of excess electricity to blare out adverts, day and night.[3,4]

Ad screens are surprisingly power-hungry: one large digital screen uses the same amount of electricity as 11 average UK households each year, while smaller ad screens use the same electricity as 3-4 homes.[3,4] The annual electricity use of billboards in Leeds has been estimated to be equal to that of 0.5% of the city’s population.[5]

Switching off digital billboards at night represents an immediate and logical energy saving measure, saving gas that could then be used to power households, hospitals and schools where it is really needed. It would also reduce the nation’s gas imports.
 
In Germany, the government has taken steps to switch off all outdoor digital ad screens and illuminated signage between 10pm and 6am, in response to the energy crisis. In Spain, digital signage must now be turned off at 10pm. Similar measures are being taken in France, Austria and across Europe to reduce unnecessary power use. In the UK, Oxford Street’s famous Christmas lights saw reduced operating hours to save energy[6] – reducing the operating hours of digital billboards is another natural step.

Higher electricity demand at night puts prices up and therefore increases pressure on household energy bills for those already facing unprecedented costs of living.

We saw during the national mourning for Queen Elizabeth that it is possible to coordinate to turn off screens across the country. Advertising companies who operate digital billboards have also all pledged their commitments to energy efficiency and Net Zero.

The Government can take this easy step to help to reduce unnecessary energy use – showing that their priority is for households and British people, first and foremost.

Yours sincerely, the undersigned,

Nicola Round, Outreach Director, Adfree Cities
Caroline Lucas MP
Baroness Natalie Bennett, Green Party Peer
Carla Denyer, Co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales
Cllr Lucy Galvin, Leader, Norwich City Council Green Party Group
Cllr Emma Edwards, Leader, Bristol City Council Green Party Group
Doug Parr, Chief Scientist and Policy Director, Greenpeace UK
Caroline Simpson, Campaign Manager, Warm This Winter Campaign
Leo Murray, Co-Director, Possible
Ruth London, Director, Fuel Poverty Action
Nadine Oliver, Ethical Consumer
Fiona Waters, Head of Movement Building, Uplift UK
Natasha Parker, Head of Online Climate, Global Action Plan 
Ruth Westcott, Climate and Nature Emergency Coordinator, The Food for the Planet Campaign
Andrew Simms, Co-Director, New Weather Institute
Robbie Gillett, Badvertising
Stop MSG Sphere Campaign
Roger Higman, Director, Network of Wellbeing
Vera Kozak, Director of Movement Building, Post Growth Institute
Dr Joan Munby, Ambassador, LightAware
Phillippa Banister, Street Space
Emma River-Roberts, Founder, The Working Class Climate Alliance
Anna Bryher, Policy Lead, Labour Behind the Label
Matt Zarb-Cousin, Co-ordinator, Coalition Against Gambling Ads
Roy Alexander, Chair, Dark Sky UK
Steve Tonkin, Dark Skies Advisor, Federation of Astronomical Societies and Cranborne Chase International Dark Sky Reserve
Howard Lawrence, BAA Commission for Dark Skies
Ed Bridges, Adblock Cardiff
Alastair Binnie-Lubbock, Adblock Hackney
Oliver Furlong, Adblock Lambeth 
Matt White, Adblock Norwich
Julian Clover, Adblock Bristol
Dr Thomas Dekeyser, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Aberystwyth University
Simon Mair, Lecturer in Sustainability, University of York
Dr Eleftheria Lekakis, Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications, University of Sussex
Will Prochaska, Strategy Director, Gambling with Lives
James Grimes, The Big Step
Megan Eaves, Founder, Dark Sky London
Jerry Stone, Freelance Space Presenter, Spaceflight UK
Fran Wilde, Extinction Rebellion Birmingham
Nate Higgins, Green Party Councillor, London Borough of Newham
Andrée Frieze, Green Party Councillor, London Borough of Richmond 
Tom Hathway, Green Party Councillor, Bristol City Council
James Crawford, Green Party Councillor, Bristol City Council
Lorraine Francis, Green Party Councillor, Bristol City Council
David Wilcox, Green Party Councillor, Bristol City Council
Ed Plowdon, Green Party Councillor, Bristol City Council
Martin Fodor, Green Party Councillor, Bristol City Council
Paula O’Rourke, Green Party Councillor, Bristol City Council
Patrick McAllister, Green Party Councillor, Bristol City Council 


References:
[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-63155827
[2] https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/britain-pay-homes-use-less-power-again-this-winter-2023-08-31/ 
[3] https://adfreecities.org.uk/2019/11/the-electricity-cost-of-digital-adverts/ 
[4] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jan/09/electronic-advertising-boards-manchester-energy-use-consumption 
[5] https://adblockleeds.co.uk/2021/01/17/the-ads-in-leeds-consume-as-much-electricity-as-8000-people/ 
[6] https://www.cityam.com/oxford-street-to-slash-opening-hours-for-christmas-lights-amid-energy-crisis/