Saving energy: how EU governments plan to reduce their consumption

When the European Commission and EU ministers presented and approved a plan to reduce gas consumption in the coming months to weather what is likely to be a very challenging energy winter, they insisted that everyone will have to contribute.

That includes businesses, the bloc’s 447 million citizens and, of course, themselves.

The Save Gas for a Safe Winter plan to voluntarily reduce gas use by 15% between August 1 and March 31 is seen as crucial to allowing homes to use heat and businesses to continue producing during the colder months. in case Russia completely cuts off gas supplies to the 27-bloc country.

Moscow has so far partially or fully cut off gas supplies to 12 member states, while Nord Stream 1, the pipeline that delivers Russian gas to Germany, is now operating at just 20% capacity.

This is seen in European capitals, which are scrambling to fill gas storage before winter, as an attempt by Russia to blackmail them into easing sweeping sanctions imposed since its war in Ukraine began on February 24.

Euronews has contacted several governments to find out what they will do to curb their energy use.

France

A spokesperson for France’s Ministry of Ecological Transition told Euronews that the government has launched an Energy Sobriety Plan that targets a 10% cut in energy consumption over the next two years compared to 2019.

This would not target just one power source but all of them.

It was announced by President Emmanuel Macron during his annual Bastille Day speech, a week before the Commission proposed its gas-saving plan.

France relies mainly on nuclear power, which it supplies around 42% of the country’s energy needs. Then comes oil, then gas, biofuels, renewables, hydropower, and coal. The shares of Russian imports are low, accounting for only 17%, 9% and 26% of France’s gas, oil and coal, respectively.

Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said the Sobriety Plan “It’s good for the planet, of course, but it’s also good for overwintering and going without Russian gas for years to come.”

The spokesman said that as part of the plan, the government aims to ensure that an already existing French law setting heating and air conditioning temperatures at 19 and 26 degrees respectively is properly implemented in the coming months.

A difference of one degree in heating and air conditioning, the spokesman continued, results in a reduction of about 7% in energy consumption.

The size of the state is particularly important in France, as around 30% of the country’s tertiary real estate stock is owned by the authorities.

In the meantime, state employees will be asked to be more responsible and turn off unnecessary lights and unused appliances on standby, use public transportation whenever possible, and work remotely. The latter, the spokesman said, would have to be done in a coordinated way so that entire teams work remotely at the same time to allow the heating in relevant government buildings to be turned off.

Once again, size matters, as around 20% of France’s workforce is employed by the state.

Germany

A spokesperson for the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) told Euronews that “in order to reduce energy consumption, it makes sense to stop heating rooms where people don’t spend time regularly, such as corridors, large rooms, lobbies or technical spaces”. rooms unless there are security-related requirements.

“For public facilities and office buildings, this will be regulated in the ordinances. A period of 6 months is foreseen for this measure. In addition, the BMWK will talk with the social partners about other ways to save energy in the workplace, This in close collaboration with the Ministry of Labor is being discussed here, “he added.

Germany is much more exposed to Russia than France.

Oil provides about a third of the country’s energy needs, closely followed by gas, while coal ranks a distant third (about 15%), followed by biofuels, nuclear power and renewables.

Russia supplied 55% of the country’s gas, 35% of its oil and 45% of its coal in 2021, according to the Institute of Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), an expert group.

Lithuania

Contacted by Euronews, a spokesperson for the Lithuanian Ministry of Energy emphasized that “in the first half of this year, gas use in Lithuania has decreased by 30 percent, so no special recommendations currently apply.”

More recommendations for government institutions on energy saving are also being prepared that would cover tips for using electricity, remote work and heat temperature settings, the spokesperson also said.

“Increasing prices of petroleum products and electricity also reduced the consumption of these products. Lithuanian state-owned companies save energy resources by organizing remote work for certain employees,” they added.

Oil accounted for almost 38% of Lithuania total power supply last year, followed by gas (24.5%), biofuels and waste (18.8%), electricity trade with other countries (10.6%), then renewables and coal.

Until 2014, the Baltic country was almost entirely dependent on neighboring Russia for all of its energy supplies, but worried about the power Moscow gave it, Vilnius opened a liquefied natural gas terminal called Independence that year to receive gas from elsewhere. It also started buying oil from Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.

Russia’s war in the Ukraine led it to completely cut off Russian gas and imports. April 1 and end of May respectively.

European Comission

When asked about its own plan to curb energy use, the European Commission said “we are saving energy by closing the Commission building.”

“For example, during the summer there are several buildings that have been closed,” spokeswoman Miriam García Ferrer told reporters last week, adding that a pilot plan that began in 2021 to encourage services to make use of other buildings so that some may be closed was also renovated this year.

“Finally, another important element is that we are reducing the use of the heating and cooling system. That is why we have put the heating at a maximum of 19 degrees and the cooling at a maximum of 25 degrees”, he added.

According to the same source, the Commission has already reduced its total energy consumption in Brussels and Luxembourg during the 2015-2020 period by 20% by moving to high energy performance and/or passive buildings, monitoring their energy use, ensuring that electricity consumed was only produced by green/renewable sources and the closure of buildings during periods of low occupancy.

Other measures at construction sites include turning off heating/cooling earlier in the evening, upgrading its lighting system to LEDs and installing sensor detectors to lower consumption, and deploying “dynamic collaborative spaces” along with increased telecommuting to reduce the amount of buildings by half by 2030.

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