Europeans are taking cold showers, turning down office thermostats and dimming store lights to prevent blackouts and homes freezing this winter in the aftermath of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
As the Kremlin slashes gas distribution and power plants slash supplies, Europe has no choice but to curtail demand. The measures have so far been uneven, but the urgency is increasing as wholesale prices continue to rise.
While some countries such as Germany, where nearly half of homes rely on gas for heating, are more exposed than others, the European Union is calling for a band together. The bloc’s member states aim to cut gas use by 15% through this winter if Russia – which historically covers about 40% of the EU’s demand for the fuel – turns off the tap.
Here is an overview of some of the major initiatives to curb energy use:
Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s cabinet this week approved a fifth drop in gas consumption and a raft of measures to help cut back on the winter. The national measures, which combine steps taken by municipalities across Germany such as cutting off hot water in public pools, are aimed at reducing gas use by about 2% and include:
Prohibition on heating private swimming pools
No longer heating certain areas in public buildings
Lowering the minimum office temperature to 19 °C (66 °F)
Most outdoor lighting restrictions for buildings and monuments
Promoting energy efficiency in public and private buildings
President Emmanuel Macron has set a target of reducing energy consumption by 10% in 2024 compared to 2019 levels. His administration last month set up a series of working groups focused on government operations, real estate, tech and telecommunications, and shopping centers and other public sites. The target is to have specific offers by the end of September. While some concrete steps have been taken so far, several initiatives have been taken:
As of October, French supermarket chains will stop lighting store signs after closing, and if there is government guidance to do so, retail spaces can reduce lighting by 30% and lower temperatures by 17 percent during peak shopping hours. will reduce to °C.
To set an example, the country’s finance ministry said it will turn on heat only when the office temperature drops below 19 degrees Celsius and will not cool until it warms above 26 degrees Celsius.
A new plan to cut Italy’s consumption could be approved at a cabinet meeting early next week. Energy prices have become a major issue of the campaign ahead of the September 25 election to replace Prime Minister Mario Draghi. The centre-left is proposing price controls for electricity, a move criticized by right-wing frontrunner Giorgia Meloni, who instead wants EU-wide initiatives.
According to Italian media, the country’s savings plan may include:
Cut gas used for heating by more than 10% to lower temperatures and reduce heating hours in homes and offices during the winter
dim public and shop lights at night
Extend the life of coal plants to reduce gas used for electricity generation
Factory shutdown may be part of the plan, but many energy-intensive industries are already cutting operations due to rising costs
In a rare move to legally mandate reduced consumption, Spanish lawmakers on Thursday passed rules created by decree in early August. Steps include:
Limiting air conditioning to 27 °C in public buildings and most businesses as well as airports and train stations
Setting heating to no more than 19 °C in winter, exceptions include hotel rooms, restaurant kitchens, hair salons, gyms, schools and hospitals.
Ban on lighting of monuments and shop windows at night
Requires shop doors to be closed when heating or cooling systems are on
In line with the EU target, Switzerland will ask, but will not force, homes and businesses to cut gas use by 15% from October to March by taking steps such as lowering indoor heating temperatures. The government is setting the same goal to set a “good example” for its own administration.
If the voluntary approach doesn’t work, the government is consulting on mandatory measures including switching gas-burning industrial plants to oil and cutting supplies to the public sector. For now, Switzerland is saying that private households will be exempted from any mandatory rationing.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s government announced a campaign challenging consumers and households as well as companies and organizations to reduce consumption, with a target of 75% of its citizens participating. The joint campaign by the Ministry of Economy and other organizations was announced on Thursday and aims to reduce energy use in a sustainable manner with a long-term goal. The campaign will formally launch in October and will propose:
reduce indoor temperature
increased use of public transport, and for motorists driving slow
take short showers
Reducing time spent on digital devices
Prime Minister Magdalena Andersen’s government expects to use about $5.8 billion in so-called bottleneck revenue to compensate households and companies, and the Swedish Energy Agency has made various suggestions to help cut energy use in households. are presented, including:
Insulating attics and façades, with government offering tax rebates for associated labor costs
Switching to a More Efficient Water Faucet
Sealing, refurbishing or replacing windows and exterior doors
Supplementing the heating system with a heat pump
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s administration has not set a concrete reduction target beyond the EU target of 15% reduction in gas use, which it has already reached. Officials have given Danes a number of recommendations to follow, including:
turn off the heating system in the summer
Reduce daily hot showers from 15 minutes to five minutes, saving an average family about $700 per year
Using a Clothesline Instead of a Tumble Dryer to Save Families About $350 a Year
Running household appliances like dishwashers at night to take advantage of cheap, off-peak electricity prices
The Dutch government is not implementing measures specifically for this winter, and the state-owned gas company has said the country will have enough supplies for this winter. But “Save Energy Now!” The campaign encourages people to make their homes more efficient by using heat pumps, ventilation with heat-recovery function, solar water heating and better insulation for roofs, floors and windows.
Vienna has promised to save some costs by delaying the introduction of winter lighting for Christmas markets, while ski centers can also reduce offerings by eliminating less artificial snow and limiting night-time operations. The national government has yet to impose mandatory measures with the country to fill one of the continent’s largest gas storage networks to 80% capacity.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s government in June announced measures to curb public sector energy use by 10% in the near future and 30% by the end of the decade. The authorities will provide financial incentives to energy saving organizations and also create a digital system to monitor consumption. Measures include:
temperature control in buildings
turn off lights and computer
street lighting changes
Ireland is exempt from the EU target because it gets most of its gas from the UK, but the country is still encouraging people to reduce their use of electricity this winter through a “reduce your use” campaign .