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Voluntary energy saving 'can make real difference' in fight to reduce dependency: IEA

Highlights

220 mil barrel oil, 10 Bcm gas potential annual savings

Eur500/year savings on household bills

Companies must get involved: Graichen

Voluntary adoption of nine energy efficiency habits by European citizens could save 220 million barrels of oil and 17 Bcm of gas a year and play a key role in reducing dependency on Russian fossil fuels, the International Energy Agency said April 21.

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The nine habits, reflecting actions in the home and on the road first detailed in the IEA's March oil and gas use reduction action plans, would save the average household around Eur500 a year, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a roundtable discussion with ministers and officials.

"We have two important dates: this summer, when the driving season starts; and this winter, when the heating season starts. In my view we may be left with the choice of governments and utilities rationing supplies to consumers, or we do it ourselves by pushing the energy efficiency button," Birol said.

The "simple, practical steps" in the IEA's "Playing My Part" plan (see table) would save 600,000 b/d of oil and enough gas to displace volumes on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, he said.

With Europe embarked on a protracted period of high fossil fuel prices, energy saving actions had "a totally different payback period now", said Patrick Graichen, state secretary of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.

Nevertheless, both Graichen and Luxembourg Minister for Energy Claude Turmes said voluntary action would not be enough.

"The question is what can we do in terms of regulation to ensure everyone is participating [in energy efficiency], not only those thinking of the climate or household budgets," Graichen said.

"We also need a closer look at what we can do in the short term to reduce our gas dependency on Russia, via smart thermostats or putting heat pumps next to gas boilers for hybrid systems," he said.

Companies needed to be brought into the debate, he said.

"If CEOs say I want us to reduce gas demand by 10% within the next 12 months, I assure you 90% of companies will find that. We need to campaign that this is a joint effort by European governments, citizens and companies to reduce our energy imports from Russia and move forward on our climate agenda," Graichen said.

Eamon Ryan, Ireland's minister for the environment, climate and communications, said it was not just the quantity of gas used in power generation that was critical, it was also the timing.

"Decreasing our power consumption during the evening peak gives us the opportunity not to turn on gas plants just to cope with that extra demand," he said.

He acknowledged, however, that calling on consumers to act was not an easy message for politicians to deliver, particularly when the risk of fuel poverty ramped up next autumn and winter and households would find it hard to heat their homes.

"I'll be honest, it is very difficult not to come across as someone telling people what to do in a mean, Scrooge-like way. That is why it is important we coordinate our information campaigns at European level," he said.

IEA: 'PLAYING MY PART' EFFICIENCY DRIVE

ACTION
RESULT
Turn down heating, use less AC
Turning thermostats down 1°C saves 7% of gas used and cuts Eur70/yr from bills. Setting AC 1°C warmer saves 10% power
Adjust boiler temperature
Default setting adjustment can save 8% of energy used to heat rooms and water, saving Eur100/yr
Work from home
Commuting accounts for around a quarter of the oil used by cars in the EU
Use your car economically
Pool car journeys and set AC 3°C warmer to save Eur100/yr
Reduce motorway speed
A 10-kph reduction in speed saves Eur60/yr for an average car clocking 13,000 km/yr
Car-free Sundays
Car-free days are proliferating in European cities and can save Eur100/yr/household
Walk or bike short journeys
A third of EU car journeys are less than 3 km. Walk/bike can save a household Eur50/yr
Use public transport
Public authorities can play a role via temporary reduced fares
Train, not plane
Just under 5% of plane journeys in the EU could be done by train

Source: IEA