The decorative lights seen around U.S. neighborhoods during the holiday season consume about 6.6 billion kWh of energy every year, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy.
A recent post from the Center for Global Development said that usage exceeds the national electricity consumption of developing countries, such as El Salvador, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nepal, and Cambodia.
While the U.S. number only amounts to 0.2% of U.S. energy consumption, it’s enough to power 14 million refrigerators.
El Salvador, which uses the highest amount of energy of the listed countries, topped its yearly use at 5.35 kWh. Cambodia, the lowest, was at 3.06 billion kWh.
“I think Christmas lights are a good thing. A beautiful thing! I’m not trying to be anti-Christmas at all,” said Todd Moss, one of the post’s writers, to NPR.
According to Moss, the post was meant to highlight the differences in energy use between rich and poor countries. As developing countries increase their usage of electricity, their needs go beyond what current renewable technologies are capable of achieving.
“I get an annual notice from Pepco, the power company in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, where I live. The fuel mix for D.C. and Maryland is 95.9 percent from coal, gas and nuclear; 4 percent renewable — including 2 percent wind, 0.1 percent solar,” Moss said to NPR. “It’s pretty rich for me to sit in Washington, D.C., and tell Ghana they can’t build one natural gas power plant.”
Though the Dept. of Energy statistic cited comes from 2008, Moss said he would be surprised if energy consumed during the holidays changed significantly in 2015.
“Lights are something we take for granted, but a lot of countries around the world don’t have enough electricity to run a refrigerator or create jobs,” said Moss to NPR. “And we should be humble in the kind of advice we give countries about how they should develop energy sources.”