Four things nations can do to save energy

This week, temperatures in Britain hit a record high of 40.3 degrees Celsius, or 104.5 degrees Fahrenheit, capping a brutal Heat wave t...


This week, temperatures in Britain hit a record high of 40.3 degrees Celsius, or 104.5 degrees Fahrenheit, capping a brutal Heat wave that burned Europe and caused the demand for electricity to skyrocket.

It came in the midst of a war in Ukraine that has reversed the global energy market.

The energy crisis prompted the EU executive this week to ask member states to reduce their gas consumption by 15% by next spring as officials prepare for Russia to cut natural gas deliveries in the coming months.

Here are some of the steps countries could take to reduce energy demand and some of the potential pitfalls:

Setting an air conditioner just one degree Celsius, or about two degrees Fahrenheit, warmer could reduce the amount of electricity used by 10% per year. according to the International Energy Agency.

Nick Eyre, professor of energy and climate policy at the University of Oxford, said governments could lead by example. The general public, he noted, might not respond well to politicians who tell them how to live without making changes themselves.

Lowering the thermostat in winter by just one degree Celsius for buildings in Europe could save up to 10 billion cubic meters of gasequivalent to Austria’s annual gas demand.

Worldwide, encouraging public transport by making it cheaper and encouraging other mobility options, such as walking or cycling, could save an estimated 330,000 barrels of oil per day, according to the IEA.

This number could increase if employers simultaneously offer flexibility in working hours or allow more working days from home.

Some countries in Europe are already doing this. From June until at least August, Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s national railway company, is offering unlimited public transport passes for the equivalent of around $9 a month, in the framework of plans to mitigate the effects of inflation. Ireland and Italy have also reduced public transport fares for certain groups, such as young adults, students and workers.

One limitation: it wouldn’t be particularly effective in rural areas that don’t have robust public transportation.

In theory, lowering the speed limit on highways could significantly reduce the fuel consumption of cars and trucks, according to a report by the International Energy Agency. A number of countries and urban areas have already implemented speed limits to reduce congestion and pollution.

If highway speed limits were reduced by at least 10 kilometers per hour, or about 6 miles per hour, advanced economies could reduce oil demand by at least 290,000 barrels of oil per day, the report says. .

In practice, however, it can be difficult to implement a national speed limit and get enough citizens on board to achieve meaningful results. The United States tried to do this in 1974, introducing a national speed limit of 55 miles per hour for cars, buses and trucks after OPEC cut the country’s oil supplies, estimating the limit could save 200,000 barrels of gasoline a day. Several European countries have also reduced speed limits.

At the time, officials thought the limit would reduce gasoline consumption by 2.2%, but actual gasoline demand has remained relatively flat in the years since. Motorists largely ignored the law, and some states opposed to the rule issued only modest fines of $5 to $15 to those caught speeding.

Well-designed public awareness campaigns can motivate people to take action to reduce their own energy consumption, but poorly designed campaigns that don’t find the right tone and message can fall flat.

Some energy-saving campaigns are more successful when they focus on how people can save money through their actions; others are more successful when they take an environmental approach or make moral appeals to good citizenship. In many cases, governments could take advantage of social media to tailor different messages to different audiences.

It is important to think not only about the message and how it is delivered, but also about the messenger. If citizens do not perceive the government as a credible authority, they are less likely to believe the message, an IEA report indicates.

The best campaigns strike a balance between urgency and agency.

“You can’t just spread information and expect people to change their behavior overnight,” said Brian Motherway, head of the energy efficiency division at the International Energy Agency. If you employ behavioral scientists and communication experts and take the time to design an intentional campaign, he said, “you can do it really well.”

“You can find ways to engage with citizens in a way that really empowers them and motivates them to act.”

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