Measures in Europe to reduce energy consumption

European countries, grappling with the spectre of a cold winter – with entire energy-intensive production chains at risk of stopping – due to the possible disconnection of gas supply by Russia, are starting to implement a range of measures to reduce consumption. These include: the maximum heating at 19OC during the autumn and winter and the air conditioners in the summer at no less than 27 OC; Electricity in shopwindows turned off after 10pm and doors of shops that must remain closed so as not to disperse heating or cooling; Facades of monuments, fountains and public buildings would remain dark at night or with very low lights. And consumers must be adviced on reducing the duration of their stay in the shower.

For now, as a precaution, these are moderate corrections to lifestyle habits. They may not be enough. It will also depend on the evolution of the conflict in Ukraine, which has made gas prices soar up to €239 per megawatt hour at the Ttf in Amsterdam, while a year ago it cost just over €25. During the week, from  Wednesday, August 31, the new stop to the flow through the Nord Stream gas pipeline is scheduled, officially for the maintenance of the compressors which should end on Friday, September 2. Recently, other scheduled maintenance works have gone on much longer than expected, like the turbine repaired in Canada at the beginning of August which is still stationed in Germany waiting to return to its place. After the agreement reached in Brussels at the beginning of August, which provides for the voluntary reduction of 15% in consumption (a percentage that varies for individual countries nd for others which are exempt) to reduce dependence on Russian gas, now the time has come for individual national energy saving plans.

After a summer of scorching heat, Europe is now preparing for a possible cold winter, to mitigate the effects of the skyrocketing energy bill. Germany has just launched a package of measures to reduce electricity consumption: from 1 September the maximum temperature of 19 OC for heating in public buildings, while corridors, foyers and transit areas will remain directly without heating. The heat will be limited up to 12 OC where employees do intense physical work. Minister of Economy, the green Robert Habeck made it clear: “We do not want to measure the temperatures in the bedrooms, individual freedom must be valid, but the measures call for the responsibility of families to contribute to the reduction of energy consumption.” But environmental senator Jens Kerstan warned: “In the event of a severe gas shortage, hot water could only be made available at certain times of the day.” The night lighting of the buildings will be prohibited, luminous shop signs will be turned off between 10 pm and 6 am and the street lighting would be more subdued.

“The era of abundance is over” for the French president Emmanuel Macron who summarised the situation with clarity. Now the government is preparing to launch a package of measures: a ban on light advertising between 1 am and 6 am and closed doors in heated or air-conditioned businesses. According to the Transalpine Environment and Energy Management Agency, an advertising LED consumes as much as an average household for lighting and household appliances.

In Spain, although the country is less dependent than others on Russian gas imports, some measures to contain energy consumption have been in place since the beginning of August. The lights in shop windows are turned off at 10 pm, the doors of the shops must be kept closed so as not to disperse the air conditioning, which must not drop below 27 OC.

Also in neighbouring Portugal, a debate is underway on the measures to be implemented. The CPP, an acronym that brings together traders, has opened to the hypothesis of a reduction in the opening hours of shops, between Sunday and Thursday, with the exception of cinemas and restaurants. Between Lisbon and Porto there are some of the longest opening hours in Europe, with businesses often open until midnight.

For Italy, the gas crisis erupted in the middle of the election campaign for the early elections on  September 25. A month ago the Minister of Ecological Transition, Roberto Cingolani, presented the guidelines of the plan: 1 OC reduction in the temperature in private homes, public offices and one hour cut in the operating time of the plants. That is, a maximum of 19 OC in winter and no less than 27 OC in summer. Italy needs to replace 30 billion cubic metres of gas from Russia. Most of them, 25 billion, will come from agreements signed in recent months with other countries, particularly in Africa; the rest from savings and greater use of renewable energy sources. Cingolani often reminds Italians that a winter of “prudence and sobriety” awaits them but also that Italy is well on its way to storage, close to 80%, in order to face the winter with greater serenity.

With the dizzying rise in the price of gas, several political leaders are asking for a schedule of emergency measures together with the outgoing government. It is possible that one of the first measures of the new government will be the implementation of the energy saving programme. Mid-month, European energy ministers, convened by the rotating presidency of the Union, will meet to take stock of the situation.

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