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Energy savings: How EU governments plan to cut their consumption

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When the European Commission and EU ministers presented and approved a plan to cut gas consumption over the coming months to weather what is likely to be a very challenging winter energy-wise, they hammered home that everyone will have to pitch in.

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

The Save Gas for a Safe Winter plan to voluntarily slash gas use by 15% between August 1 and March 31 is deemed crucial to allow households to use heating and companies to continue producing during the colder months should Russia completely cut off gas supplies to the 27-country bloc.

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

This is viewed across European capitals, which are scrambling to fill up gas storage ahead of the winter, as an attempt by Russia to blackmail them into easing wide-ranging sanctions imposed since it started its war in Ukraine on 24 February. 

Euronews has reached out to several governments to find out what they will be doing to curb their energy use. 

France

A spokesperson for the French Ecological Transition Ministry told Euronews that the government has rolled out an Energy Sobriety Plan that aims for a 10% cut in energy consumption over the next two years compared to 2019.

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

It was announced by President Emmanuel Macron during his annual Bastille Day address — a week before the Commission proposed its gas savings plan.

France relies primarily on nuclear power which supplies about 42% of the country’s energy needs. Next comes oil, then gas, biofuels, renewables, hydropower and coal. The shares of Russian imports are low and represent just 17%, 9% and 26% of France’s gas, oil and coal respectively.

Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said the Sobriety Plan “is good for the planet, of course, but it is also good for getting through the winter and doing without Russian gas in the years to come”.

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

A one-degree difference in heating and air-conditioning, the spokesperson continued, results in roughly a 7% reduction in energy consumption. 

The size of the state is particularly important in France as about 30% of the country’s tertiary building stock is owned by authorities. 

State employees will meanwhile be asked to be more responsible and switch off unnecessary lights and unused appliances on standby, use public transport wherever possible and work remotely. The latter, the spokesperson said, would have to be done in a coordinated manner so that entire teams work remotely at the same time to enable heating to be switched off in the appropriate government buildings. 

Again, size matters as about 20% of France’s workforce are employed by the state. 

Germany

A spokesperson for the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) told Euronews that “to reduce energy consumption, it makes sense to stop heating rooms in which people do not regularly spend time, such as corridors, large halls, foyers or technical rooms unless there are safety-related requirements.”

“For public facilities and office buildings, this is to be regulated in ordinances. A period of 6 months is planned for this measure. In addition, the BMWK will talk to the social partners about other ways of saving energy in the workplace – this in close cooperation with the Ministry of Labour. Discussions are underway here,” they added.

Germany is much more exposed to Russia than France.

Oil provides roughly a third of the country’s energy needs, closely followed by gas while coal comes a distant third (about 15%), followed by biofuels, nuclear 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 for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), a think tank. 

Lithuania

Contacted by Euronews, a spokesperson for the Lithuanian Ministry of Energy emphasised that “in the first half of this year, gas use in Lithuania has decreased by 30 per cent, so no special recommendations are currently being applied.”

Further recommendations for government institutions on energy savings are also being prepared which would cover tips for using electricity, remote working and heat temperature settings, the spokesperson also said.  

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

Oil accounted for nearly 38% of Lithuania’s total energy 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 nearly completely dependent on neighbouring Russia for all its energy supplies but wary of the power that gave Moscow, Vilnius opened a Liquified 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 Ukraine prompted it to completely cut Russian gas and imports on April 1 and late May respectively.

European Commission

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,” spokesperson Miriam Garcia Ferrer told reporters last week, adding that a pilot scheme that was started in 2021 to encourage services to make use of other buildings so that some can be closed was also renewed this year. 

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

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

Other measures in the works include shutting down heating/cooling earlier in the evening, upgrading its lighting system to LEDs and installing sensor detectors to decrease consumption, and rolling out “dynamic collaborative spaces” in conjunction with increased teleworking to reduce the number of buildings by half by 2030.



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