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CEE lags behind Western Europe in energy demand reduction, says European Environmental Bureau

Measures adopted by EU governments to reduce gas and electricity consumption vary widely across the continent and seem insufficient to meet the EU’s energy-saving targets, according to a new analysis by the membership organisation, European Environmental Bureau. Failing to implement any reduction measures (as of 30 November), Slovakia, Lithuania, Romania, Latvia and Bulgaria are ranked the lowest in terms of implementing measures to reduce energy consumption in the bloc.

Slightly higher on the analysis’ energy consumption ranking are Poland, Czech Republic, Croatia and Austria, thanks to the introduction of voluntary measures promoted via public information campaigns. In Croatia, campaigns are predominately focused on heating and hot water use, whilst additionally, the Czech government has brought forward an energy savings manual and free consultations for energy/efficient renovations. In Poland, the government has introduced a price scheme that promotes energy savings for businesses and households by combining the energy price rates with the amount of consumed energy.

Whilst not elaborated in the analysis, in terms of electricity consumption, Poland’s price scheme offers discounts for households that voluntarily lower electricity usage by 10 per cent, part of the government’s “Solidarity Shield”, which was announced in September 2022. In addition, the Polish Solidarity Shield included a mandatory electricity savings threshold for public administration institutions.

“The sooner we reduce our energy usage, the quicker we reduce pressure on high energy prices, providing effective relief for households and industry,” said the Deputy Policy Manager for Climate at EBB, Davide Sabbadin. “All signals tell us that filling gas storage before next year’s winter might be far more challenging. Reducing the energy demand must be the top priority for policymakers, rather than short-term measures to keep us locked into an inefficient, fossil-fuel-hungry model. The EU can definitively do more to coordinate energy-saving action among its member states.”

Does the EU need a “monitoring task force” to save more energy?

EBB’s findings are also key in the context of assessing the wider EU energy crisis response. Looking at recommendations on the EU level, the membership organisation proposed establishing an “EU energy savings monitoring task force to track action both at national and EU level and verify the effective achievement of the targets for reducing energy consumption”.

Slovenia and Hungary are the highest-ranked countries from the CEE region, as both have introduced some mandatory gas reduction measures. For example, Hungary has mandated all government and state/run enterprises to reduce gas consumption by at least 25 per cent and is looking into ways to increase domestic production of coal to offset gas usage. However, no measures or recommendations are in place for private citizens.

According to the analysis’s classification, Spain, France, Italy and Germany are considered “the frontrunners” with “the most robust measures in place, targeting both public entities and the private sector, households as well as industry and small businesses.” This includes mandates limiting air conditioning use in businesses and turning off signage and shop lights at night, with an extension of these guidelines as recommendations for private households and municipalities. In France and Germany, heating is also reduced at public swimming pools, and in Italy, this is extended to all buildings. On the local level in Paris, public lighting is limited at the Eiffel Tower and street light bulbs are replaced with more efficient LED lighting.

In terms of countries that have not introduced any energy reduction measures, the analysis noted that “in some countries, whereas gas is mainly used for industrial purposes and not for heating homes, high gas prices or supply disruptions have in themselves led to a sharp reduction in consumption.” In addition, it noted that “some stakeholders” question the “fairness” of the EU’s energy reduction measures for countries like Romania and Latvia, whose per capita electricity consumption is already among the lowest in the EU.

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