This article was published by the International Energy Agency on April 21, 2022.
The International Energy Agency and the European Commission outlined a range of simple steps that people can take to reduce their energy use and save money – and that would save enough oil to fill 120 super tankers and enough natural gas to heat almost 20 million homes if adopted by all EU citizens.
The actions – designed to help Ukraine by cutting Europe’s reliance on Russian fuel and also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – were presented and discussed by IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol and European Commission Director-General for Energy Ditte Juul Jørgensen during a live-streamed virtual roundtable event today with a host of figures from government and civil society.
People across Europe have helped Ukraine by making donations or aiding refugees directly, and many would like to do more. Most households are also experiencing higher energy bills because of the energy crisis exacerbated by the war. Using less energy is not only an immediate way for Europeans to reduce their bills, it also supports Ukraine by reducing the need for Russian oil and gas, thereby helping to reduce the revenue streams funding the invasion.
The actions in the plan draw on the IEA’s recent 10-Point Plan to Reduce the European Union’s Reliance on Russian Natural Gas and 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use. The latest plan – Playing my part: How to save money, reduce reliance on Russian energy, support Ukraine and help the planet – shows how local and national governments can work with citizens to unlock even more savings. By following all recommendations in the plan, the typical EU household could save, on average, close to €500 a year, though the amounts would vary depending on the household’s size, location and access to public transport for example. If all EU citizens were to follow the recommendations at home and in their workplace, it would save 220 million barrels of oil a year and around 17 billion cubic metres of natural gas.
“Faced with the horrendous scenes of human suffering that we’ve seen following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, people in Europe want to take action,” said IEA Executive Director Dr Birol. “Using less energy is a concrete way to help the Ukrainian people – and to help ourselves. This guide has easy-to-follow steps that with little or no discomfort on our part can reduce the flow of money to Russia’s military and help put us on a path to a cleaner and more sustainable planet.”
“Energy efficiency has the potential to be the most important policy initiative for reducing our dependence on Russian imports and responding to the current energy market challenges, both through short term energy savings, and longer term energy efficiency measures,” said Ms Juul Jørgensen, the European Commission Director-General for Energy. “Energy efficiency is an area where everyone can make a difference. This also has the potential to provide considerable savings to individual consumers at this time of high wholesale energy prices.”
The recommended steps involve turning down heating and using less air conditioning, working from home when possible to avoid commuting, and car-pooling or travelling by public transport when available. Employers have a role to play to encourage teleworking and train journeys instead of short-haul flights. Governments can play a role by providing financial incentives by reducing fares for trains, buses and micro-mobility and by supporting the installation of solar panels, the improvement of home insulation and the switch to other fuels for heating.
According to the plan’s findings, turning down the thermostat by just 1 °C would save around 7% of the energy used for heating, while setting an air conditioner 1 °C warmer could reduce the amount of electricity used by up to 10%. With an average one-way car commute in the EU of 15 kilometres, working at home three days a week could reduce household fuel bills by around €35 a month, even after taking increased energy use at home into account. And as the average car in the EU clocks up about 13 000 kilometres a year, reducing cruising speed on motorways by 10 kilometres an hour could cut fuel bills by an average of around €60 a year.
Besides Dr Birol and Ms Jørgensen, the roundtable also included Leonore Gewessler, Federal Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology of Austria; Eamon Ryan, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications of Ireland; Claude Turmes, Minister for Energy and Spatial Planning of Luxembourg; Patrick Graichen, State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action; Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation; Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation; and Mark Watts, Executive Director of C40 Cities.