To reduce gas consumption, each country does its own thing

To reduce gas consumption, each country does its own thing

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The next few weeks will be extremely important for European Union countries, which must decide how to manage their natural gas reserves to avoid a winter energy crisis.

On July 26, European countries pledged to reduce natural gas consumption by 15 percent by March 2023 as a result of cuts in Russian gas supplies. The aim of the agreement is, above all, to avoid an emergency situation next winter in which gas supplies will run out to supply European citizens with energy and heat. An agreement that, according to several analysts, should get through the winter without any problems, even if Russia makes further cuts.

However, the governments of the individual countries have enough leeway to organize themselves and reduce consumption, also because the agreement is not binding, unless certain emergencies arise.

Also, not all EU countries are equally dependent on Russian gas, and so there will be those who can do without it more easily and those who need to be careful in deciding which sectors will see the biggest cuts, what measures to take or not to take It is recommended to reduce energy consumption in winter and to find alternative sources. For example, some countries like Spain and Italy have pledged to cut gas consumption by 7 percent by March 2023, less than half of the deal.

Also, the 15% cut for all countries indiscriminately penalizes some countries more than others: those that already use little gas to produce energy, while being more diligent in avoiding unnecessary waste, will actually find it harder to achieve this goal, making it easier for countries that use little need to reduce waste.

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The most discussed case is that of Germany, the first European country to consume Russian gas, which is therefore suffering and will suffer more than any other from the effects of the cuts decided by Russia in response to Western countries’ support for Ukraine. The federal government, led by the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, is initially reluctant to take the measures it intends to take in the coming months: It has only issued a series of recommendations to citizens on how to use energy more responsibly (e.g. by asking public buildings to switch off heating in less frequented areas).

Chancellor Scholz also announced that his government – which also includes the FDP and the Greens – is considering continuing to operate the last three active nuclear power plants in Germany, which are scheduled to be shut down by next December. If confirmed, it would mark another step by Germany in its energy policy after it decided about a month ago to reopen some closed coal-fired power plants.

However, several German cities have adopted autonomous plans. The Berlin administration has decided to reduce the lighting of public monuments in order to save energy.

Also in France At the moment there are not many certainties about the measures that the government intends to take: a draft plan was presented in July, but it will have to be deepened and discussed again in the coming weeks, and it is likely that this will be the case September is made official, a lot will change. The plan calls for a 10 percent reduction in energy consumption in the country by 2024 compared to 2019.

In the meantime, some measures are already coming into force very shortly: At the end of July, the French Minister for Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, declared that shops using air cooling systems will be banned from keeping their doors open with the aim of saving energy. The ban also applies to heating purposes in winter and is accompanied by another ban: shops, bars and restaurants are not allowed to hold illuminated signs between 1am and 6am, with the exception of train station shops and airports.

Even more drastic measures with immediate effect were announced a few days ago Spain, where the government approved a plan requiring public buildings, commercial buildings and offices to limit air conditioning to 27°C in summer and heating to 19°C in winter. The government has also ordered stores to install automatic door-closing systems by September 30 to avoid energy leaks and that stores must turn off their window lights by 10pm.

The situation is more complicated in Italy that, despite being among the EU countries most dependent on Russian gas, has not yet formulated a definitive plan on how it intends to reduce its gas consumption in the coming winter. Some measures similar to those in Spain have been discussed, but everything is still in limbo due to the fall of Mario Draghi’s government. With more or less drastic measures, we have to wait for the elections on September 25th and the formation of a new government.

Meanwhile, several local governments have independently decided some measures to reduce energy consumption: in Turin, for example, it has been decided to reduce the light of many street lamps in the city from midnight to dawn, while in Milan the municipal council has recommended commercial premises and offices around the doors to keep closed to avoid wasting energy and limit the use of air conditioning to avoid dropping below 26°C.

Compared to those just mentioned, various other European countries have far fewer problems and concerns because they are not as dependent on natural gas: Poland, for example, uses it for only 9 percent of its energy needs and is therefore not. very interested in plans to reduce consumption.

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