Paris may be considered the City of Light, but an order by France’s environmental minister could darken the country’s nights considerably.

The ministry called on shops, buildings and all other nonresidential edifices across the country to shut off their lights in order to save energy, reduce pollution and cut costs, effective July 1.

Under the directive, lights must be switched off at businesses one hour after the last employee departs the premises.

In addition, all outside and shop window lighting must be extinguished by 1 a.m.

The government will permit exceptions for Christmas lights, certain local events and parts of Paris that attract high tourist traffic. (The Eiffel Tower already shuts off its lights at 1 a.m.)

The government hopes these measures will save the equivalent of the energy consumed by 750,000 households annually.

Business Green reported that the idea to shut the lights was originally proposed by former President Nicholas Sarkozy who wanted France to increase energy efficiency 20 percent by the year 2020.

A British energy conservationist praised the French measure.

“I could see a similar law being introduced here [in Britain]," Andrew Warren, head of the UK's Association for the Conservation of Energy, told BusinessGreen.

"But we've already got the Office and Shops Act, which prevents retail premises from exceeding a certain temperature, and it’s not properly enforced. Shops frequently exceed the temperature, but none of them are prosecuted.

"If France is going to enforce this, then that's really good, but the worry is that they've introduced something that's perfectly logical, but then it’s not enforced. Then you've got the worst of both worlds," he added.

The announcement by the environmental minister came one day after the French labor secretary, Michel Sapin, warned that the country was “totally bankrupt,” suggesting President Francois Hollande’s economic policies were failing.

“There is a state but it is a totally bankrupt state,” Sapin said. “'That is why we had to put a deficit reduction plan in place, and nothing should make us turn away from that objective.”

Senior officials of Hollande’s Socialist administration moved quickly into damage-control mode.

“What [Sapin] meant was that the fiscal situation was worrying,” Finance mMnister Pierre Moscovici said.

But a poll by the Le Figaro newspaper suggests that the French public agrees with Sapin -- 80 percent believe the country is bankrupt.