Economizing during the energy crisis

Instant savings of ten percent possible on natural gas imports from Russia

Eine GasflammeClick to enlarge
Germany has depended on Russian gas imports up to now
Source: Oleksii Sergieiev / Fotolia

Against the background of the war in Ukraine, the German Environment Agency (UBA) is making an appeal for more economical energy consumption. UBA’s President Dirk Messner said: “The best kind of energy is the kind that doesn’t get used in the first place, something which has always been true and has become even more important in the current energy crisis. It is easy for private households to help in the effort: turn down the thermostat, install a water saving showerhead and drive cars less and at slower speed. All these measures can be realized immediately and cost little to no money, bringing tangible relief to household budgets and making Germany much less dependent on fuel imports from Russia. Managing the energy crisis will also require long-term investment in infrastructure, but citizens can take immediate action to save energy effectively.” UBA estimates that about ten percent of Russian natural gas imports could be saved by decreasing indoor room temperature by two degrees in all of Germany’s residential and non-residential buildings and by installing water saving showerheads.

According to calculations by UBA, savings of about 10 terawatt hours (TWh) of gas could be achieved if every household in Germany lowered their thermostats by one degree – and even 21 TWh with a two-degree temperature decrease. It is an amount equivalent to about 5 percent of the natural gas currently imported from Russia, or roughly the annual consumption of net energy required for hot water and space heating in the cities of Berlin and Hamburg. Mr Messner also called upon hotels, the restaurant industry and other business enterprises to join this effort. Temperatures 2 degrees lower in these sectors would add another 10 TWh to savings. All residential and non-residential buildings taken together could subtract more than 7 percent from natural gas imports, in other words, 7.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and 3 billion euros in energy costs (at 10 cents per kilowatt-hour).

A good deal of energy can also be saved at low cost when showering and bathing: a water saving showerhead cuts energy use for one shower by about 30 percent. If everyone installed one, savings would amount to some 11.3 TWh of natural gas, an amount equivalent to 2.6 percent of natural gas imports from Russia, about 2.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases saved and 1.1 billion euros saved in energy costs.

Were motorway drivers to limit driving speed to a maximum of 100 km/h (80 km/h on non-built-up roads), savings would amount to some 2.1 billion litres of fossil fuel, even if not every driver adheres to the speed limit (as is already the case). “It instantly saves about 3.8 percent of the fuel consumed in the transport sector. If everyone did in fact keep to the speed limit, savings would be boosted by another 20 percent,” said Messner. These are cost savings that range between 3.5 billion and 4.2 billion euros. Given current trends, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions would amount to 5.3 million tonnes CO₂-equivalent, which is less than previously calculated for 2020 because of the reduction in mileage associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Messner pointed out that the war in Ukraine would also lead to raw material shortages in other areas. Ukraine and Russia are leading global exporters of wheat, Russia for fertiliser products. "We also expect global shortages in food and agriculture as a result of the war. We cannot yet put numbers on how this will also drive up consumer prices in Germany. The principle of economising also applies here: food should be used wisely and unnecessary food waste should be further reduced. Germans currently throw away an average of 80 kilos of food per year and person, worth 230 euros. This really needs to change now. Also, while we are concerned about security in Europe, we mustn’t forget that rising food and energy prices as a result of the war in Ukraine also have a massive impact on our neighbouring continent Africa. Swift support is essential here to avoid hunger and instability,” said Messner.

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau

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