Half of EU countries have no mandatory energy-saving measures in place for next winter, new analysis shows
Most measures adopted by EU states to save gas and electricity are voluntary and only targeted at public buildings, a new analysis reveals. Governments refraining from mandatory reductions for business and industry are shifting the burden of the energy crisis onto the most vulnerable citizens, warns the EEB.
The European Union is saving energy to respond to the energy crisis — but this is not happening in a structured, socially just and sustainable way.
Latest analysis of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) reveals significant disparities in the measures taken by EU states to reduce gas and electricity demand. Based on the scope, timeliness and stringency of the measures, the EEB has created a ranking of EU countries according to their energy-saving efforts.
Today we update this ranking with all new measures implemented until March 2023.
- Only 14 of 27 EU states have adopted mandatory measures to reduce energy. Over the past six months, Poland, Lithuania, Cyprus, and the Netherlands have joined this group.
- The most robust measures on gas savings are implemented in countries importing large quantities of Russian gas such as Italy and Germany.
- Some less gas-dependent countries like France and Spain also have strong energy reduction measures, targeting both public and private sectors, large industries as well as small businesses.
- Luxembourg, Austria, Malta, Nordic and Eastern European states tend to have weaker energy reduction measures in place.
- Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia have not introduced any national measures to reduce gas and electricity consumption.
- Portugal is the only country reporting transparently on energy savings implementation and progress, setting up a monitoring committee and providing analysis of specific measures.
Davide Sabbadin, Senior Policy Officer for Climate and Energy at EEB, said:
“Reduced energy demand last winter led to lower energy prices and less emissions. This is great, but the question is how we got there. Unusually mild temperatures and sustained high prices cannot replace good policy. Energy saving measures are more socially fair than high prices.”
“Governments must not shift the responsibility for the energy crisis onto the most vulnerable citizens. Mandatory reductions for businesses and the public sector can save energy in a more equitable and reliable way. We need bolder action from EU states now, as the exceptionally favourable conditions for energy savings last year may not happen again this winter. The EU should publicly monitor and evaluate the impact of these measures.”
During the course of the past winter, Russian fossil fuel imports were radically reduced. This led to high prices for gas in particular and a number of energy security efforts emerged in response, including the introduction of energy saving targets by the EU.
Reduced energy demand was also necessary considering the immense expenditure that EU countries provided to support households and businesses in paying the growing energy bills. As the think tank Bruegel reports, the total budget earmarked for measures to shield households and firms from the energy crisis is €646 billion, which corresponds to roughly €4.000 per household.
EU countries met their voluntary target of reducing gas consumption by 15% between 1 August 2022 and 31 March 2023. However, with only a 6.2% reduction in EU electricity consumption over the same period, most of them failed to meet the agreed target of reducing overall electricity demand by at least 10% and by 5% during peak hours.
These reductions in energy demand have multiple contributing causes. Primary causes range from exceptionally mild temperatures resulting in lower heating use, to economically motivated decisions by consumers to reduce their bills. Yet these factors do not guarantee that energy savings are sustainable or desirable from a social point of view — only government-mandated monitored measures can.
Despite many countries’ efforts, there has been no evaluation or monitoring of current savings measures at the EU level. European decision-makers need to better understand what works and what does not. Also, reports by EU governments to the Commission should be systematically made public. We urge the European Union to step up its efforts in monitoring EU countries’ energy savings.
The winter ahead could be more challenging and many uncertainties remain. We might experience droughts again in summer and exceptionally cold temperatures in winter. There might be infrastructure sabotage. Structured and sustained reductions in consumption are therefore essential, as energy supply shortfalls could increase the volatility of gas and electricity prices. No one should be left out in the cold next winter due to high energy bills.