How Europe plans to reduce gas consumption

From reducing shower time, to slower driving and fines to shopkeepers for not closing their doors, Europeans are embarking on the goal of reducing energy consumption in time for winter, and some citizens have turned to social media to share their experiences.

For example, German Christopher Hipp offered tips on Twitter on how to defrost a freezer, saying the more electricity is saved the more frost-free the kitchen device is.

Cindy, who lives in the Netherlands, shared her attempts to try to shower within a 5 minute goal, failing with 6 minutes 21 seconds. “It took 48 seconds for the shower to get hot,” she tweeted.

Ruud Vuik and his daughter, who also reside in the Netherlands, attempted the same feat by using a blue water drop-shaped shower timer for a week, which starts at 5 minutes before getting an audible alarm.

A customer browses alcoholic beverages inside a refrigerator at Exale Brewing and Taproom in East London on August 19, 2022. The European Commission agreed in July on a voluntary target to reduce gas consumption by 15% by 2023, compared to what was the average consumption from 2016 to 2021.

Hollie Adams | Afp | Getty Images

These goals are part of the EU’s wider effort to reduce demand for natural gas this winter, with an arsenal of methods of their choice.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, agreed in July on a voluntary target to reduce gas consumption by 15% until March 2023, compared to what was the average consumption from 2016 to 2021.

These are what some EU governments have recommended:

France

President Emmanuel Macron has called for a 10% reduction in gas consumption and warned that forced energy savings will be on the table if voluntary efforts prove insufficient. Gas imports from Russia account for 15% of France’s gas consumption, making it less dependent on Russia than most of its EU counterparts.

  • The lights of the iconic Eiffel Tower will go out about an hour earlier at 11:45 pm, the mayor of Paris announced on 13 September.
  • Shop owners who leave the doors of air-conditioned shops open will be fined 750 euros ($ 751).
  • Illuminated ads will be banned from 1:00 am to 6:00 am

Germany

Germany was the most exposed to cuts in Russian gas supply. German Economy Minister Robert Habeck released a statement introducing a series of measures that came into effect on September 2 in hopes of reducing gas consumption by around 2%.

  • Public buildings are heated up to a maximum of 19 degrees Celsius.
  • The shop windows are prohibited from being illuminated at night.
  • No heating of private pools.

Austria

Austria is also heavily dependent on Russian gas, gaining over 80% from Moscow in previous years. Last week, the Austrian climate department launched an energy saving campaign called “Mission 11”, with these recommendations:

  • Drive slower to save energy, at a recommended speed limit of 100km / h
  • Defrost a freezer regularly.
  • Reduce your shower time.

Spain

Although Spain is not as dependent as other EU members on Russian gas, which accounted for 14.5% of its imports, the Spanish parliament agreed on an 8% reduction in gas consumption.

  • The air conditioning temperature in most public buildings and businesses should not be below 27 degrees Celsius in the summer. And the heating shouldn’t be higher than 19 degrees Celsius during the winter.
  • Closing of the doors of the air-conditioned shops.
  • No night lighting of the exterior of shops or public monuments.

Finland

Although 75% of Finland’s gas supply was made up of Russian imports, the country is not as susceptible to the whims of Moscow. Natural gas accounts for less than 6% of the total energy consumption in Finland. In the last week of August, the Ministry of Economy and Labor announced a campaign entitled “One degree less”, which aims to convince 75% of Finns to reduce their energy consumption:

  • Reduce the home temperature on a thermostat.
  • Use less electronics, fewer light sources.
  • Limit showers to 5 minutes.

Italy

Italy imported nearly 40% of its gas from Russia last year. On the initiative of the Ministry of Ecological Transition, the country aims to reduce gas consumption by 7% (5.3 billion cubic meters) by March:

  • Thermostat in industrial buildings to be lowered by one degree to 17 degrees Celsius.
  • Residential blocks thermostat temperatures to be adjusted to 19 degrees Celsius.
  • The radiators must be turned off for at least one hour a day.

Holland

The Dutch government launched a campaign in April in an attempt to reduce dependence on Russian gas, which accounts for around 12.5% ​​of the Netherlands’ gas consumption.

  • Take 5-minute showers.
  • Turn down the central heating.

Enough for the winter?

Some reports estimate that if Europe could cut gas consumption by 15% through March 2023, the region would be able to cope with the winter despite limited supplies and rising energy prices.

“We’re already there … this month’s savings have already exceeded the 15% target,” said Samantha Dart, senior energy strategist at Goldman Sachs.

Facilities of the Fluxys gas storage station in Loenhout, Belgium. The European Commission agreed in July on a voluntary target to reduce gas consumption by 15% by 2023, compared to what was the average consumption from 2016 to 2021.

Kenzo Tribouillard | Afp | Getty Images

He added that the estimated gas consumption in August in Northwestern Europe was 13% below average.

“We believe this is more than enough savings to get through the winter without a blackout or a heating crisis,” said Dart, assuming the average winter weather scenario is valid.

Difficult, but not impossible

However, according to another analyst, that goal seems ambitious, especially at the start of the winter season.

During that time, household consumption for heating “far exceeds industrial demand,” which is already down 20-30% in much of Europe, said Eurasia Group director Henning Gloystein.

“Achieving the 15% reduction target from normal business will be difficult, but not impossible,” Gloystein told CNBC.

If Europe manages continued demand destruction and access to alternative gas supplies, “severe rationing” can be avoided, Gloystein added.

A group of houses in Cercedilla, on April 20, 2022 in Madrid, Spain, when Madrid activated the winter plan for snow, rain and wind. A cold winter could make it difficult to achieve the required reduction in demand in Europe.

Rafael Bastante | Europe Press | Getty Images

He said an “immediate cut” in household consumption could come at the same time as most of the EU’s gas tariffs will jump on 1 October, in addition to aggressive media campaigns by governments.

Possible winter recession

However, Henning warned that this will come with a price.

“This will almost certainly come at the cost of an EU recession during the winter, which will hit low-income households and small industries hardest,” he said.

A cold winter could also make it difficult to achieve the required reduction in demand, but also increase the likelihood of supply disruptions from Norway, where offshore plants in the North Sea have to be evacuated during storms, Henning said.

“If only one or two of the required measures don’t work, the situation could get pretty serious, pretty quickly.”

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