Shorter showers, slower journeys and an Eiffel Tower outage: How Europe plans to cut gas consumption this winter

Shorter showers, slower journeys and an Eiffel Tower outage: How Europe plans to cut gas consumption this winter

Whether it’s cutting shower time, driving slower or fining shopkeepers for not closing their doors, Europeans have embarked on a goal of reducing energy consumption at time for winter, and some citizens have taken to social media to share their experiences.

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

Cindy, who lives in the Netherlands, shared her attempts to try to shower within 5 minutes – failing with 6 minutes and 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 using a blue teardrop-shaped shower timer for a week, which starts at 5 minutes before going off into a loud alarm .

A customer browses alcoholic drinks inside a fridge at Exale Brewing and Taproom in east London on August 19, 2022. The European Commission agreed in July to a voluntary target to cut gas consumption by 15 % by 2023, compared to average consumption. from 2016 to 2021.

Hollie Adams | AFP | Getty Images

These targets are part of a wider EU effort to reduce demand for natural gas this winter, with an arsenal of methods to choose from.

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 the average consumption from 2016 to 2021.

Here is what some EU governments have recommended:

France

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

  • The lights of the iconic Eiffel Tower will go out about an hour earlier at 11:45 p.m., the mayor of Paris announced on September 13.
  • Store owners who leave air-conditioned store doors open will be fined 750 euros ($751).
  • Illuminated advertisements will be prohibited from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.

Germany

Germany has been the most exposed to Russian gas supply cuts. German Economy Minister Robert Habeck issued a statement introducing a series of measures that came into force on September 2 in the hope of reducing gas consumption by around 2%.

  • Public buildings are heated to a maximum of 19 degrees Celsius.
  • Shop windows prohibited from being illuminated at night.
  • Prohibition of heating private swimming pools.

Austria

Austria is also heavily dependent on Russian gas, getting more than 80% from Moscow in previous years. Last week, the Austrian Climate Department launched an energy-saving campaign dubbed “Mission 11”, with these recommendations:

  • Drive slower to save energy — at a suggested speed limit of 100 km/h
  • Regular defrosting of a freezer.
  • Reduce shower time.

Spain

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

  • Air conditioning temperatures in most public buildings and businesses should not be lower than 27 degrees Celsius in summer. And the heating should not exceed 19 degrees Celsius in winter.
  • Doors of air-conditioned stores to be closed.
  • No night lighting of the exteriors of shops or public monuments.

Finland

While 75% of Finland’s gas supply was made up of Russian imports, the country is not as sensitive to the vagaries of Moscow. Natural gas accounts for less than 6% of total energy consumption in Finland. In the last week of August, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment announced a campaign called “A Lower Degree”, which aims to get 75% of Finns to reduce their own energy consumption by:

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

Italy

Italy imported almost 40% of its gas from Russia last year. As part of an initiative by the Italian Ministry for Ecological Transition, the country is aiming to reduce gas consumption by 7% (5.3 billion cubic meters) by March:

  • Thermostat in industrial buildings to lower one degree to 17 degrees Celsius.
  • Thermostat temperatures in residential blocks should be set at 19 degrees Celsius.
  • Radiators should be turned off for at least one hour a day.

Netherlands

The Dutch government launched a campaign in April with the aim of reducing dependence on Russian gas, which accounts for around 12.5% ​​of Dutch gas consumption.

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

Enough for winter?

Some reports estimate that if Europe could reduce its gas consumption by 15% by March 2023, the region would be able to weather winter despite limited supplies and soaring energy prices.

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

Installations 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 the average consumption from 2016 to 2021.

Kenzo Tribouillard | AFP | Getty Images

She added that estimated August gas consumption in northwestern Europe was 13% below average.

“We think that’s more than enough savings to get through the winter without an outage or heating crisis,” Dart said, assuming the average winter weather scenario holds.

Difficult, but not impossible

However, according to another analyst, this goal seems ambitious, especially when the winter season begins.

This period is when household consumption for heating “far exceeds industrial demand”, which is already down 20-30% across most of Europe, Eurasia Group Director Henning Gloystein said. .

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

If Europe achieves sustained demand destruction and access to alternative gas supplies, “harsh rationing” can be avoided, Gloystein added.

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

Raphael Bastante | Europa Press | Getty Images

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

Possible winter recession

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

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

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

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

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