Aug 1, 2022
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Europe, fearful of a gas cut, is doing strange things

EU member states have called for energy cuts to make sure they can handle the situation if Russia cuts off all gas supplies. In order to save money, the authorities are taking rather strange steps, urging not only to keep the doors of stores closed under the threat of a large fine, but also to refuse to wear ties.

Energy ministers from 27 EU member states, with the exception of Hungary, this week backed a voluntary 15% reduction in winter gas consumption, a target that could become mandatory if the Kremlin orders a total shutdown of gas supplies to Europe. Some European countries are already taking steps to reduce consumption.

In France, air-conditioned shops have been ordered to keep their doors closed or face a €750 fine. A plan was also agreed upon, according to which retail establishments will turn off illuminated signs “as soon as the store closes” and “systematically reduce the intensity of lighting”, reducing the level of lighting in stores. Illuminated advertising is prohibited from 01:00 to 06:00 everywhere except railway stations and airports.

Public spaces will also need to have thermostats set higher in the summer and lower in the winter, while the public will expect Wi-Fi routers and TVs to turn off when they are not in the room and lights to turn off in rooms they are not using.

Cities in Germany are turning off spotlights on public monuments, turning off fountains and forcing cold showers on municipal swimming pools and gyms. On Wednesday, Hannover became the first major city to announce energy saving measures. Municipal buildings in the state capital of Lower Saxony will only be heated from October 1 to March 31 at a room temperature of no higher than 20°C, and the use of mobile air conditioners and fan heaters is prohibited.

Politicians have acknowledged that Oktoberfest and Christmas markets may be closed, as well as breweries, writes the British Daily Mail.

In Austria, the city of Linz has stopped lighting historic landmarks at night, while Salzburg plans to follow suit.

Greece, according to The Guardian, is highly dependent on Russian gas, 40% of its supplies come from Russia. A “working thermostat” was introduced in Greece in June with the goal of reducing energy consumption by 10% this year and 30% by 2030. Measures include adjusting air conditioners to at least 27°C in summer and installing window shields in public buildings. Employees of companies were also urged to ensure that computers are turned off after hours. As part of a major energy upgrade for public facilities, the government announced a €640 million program to upgrade windows and heating and cooling systems in buildings.

The Irish authorities have urged people to slow down their cars to cut down on petrol consumption and use less energy at home. The Irish Sustainable Energy Authority has advised households to turn the thermostat down to 20°C in living areas and 15°C to 18°C ​​in hallways and bedrooms. The agency also advises people to regulate the use of dishwashers and washing machines. The Electric Ireland utility has additional hints: “Do not overfill the kettle. If you are interrupting work for a coffee break, boil as much water in the kettle as you need.”

In early July, Italy worked on a contingency plan that, among other things, called for blackouts around monuments. Before Mario Draghi stepped down as Italy’s prime minister last week, his government was also preparing a last resort: an early 7:00 p.m. closure of commercial activities. Neither plan has yet been submitted, but since May, public buildings, with the exception of hospitals, have been told not to allow air conditioners to operate below 19°C in summer and above 27°C in winter.

Unlike many other EU countries, Spain, which agreed to reduce gas consumption by 7-8%, does not depend on energy supplies from Russia. Teresa Ribera, the country’s environment minister, said on Thursday that Spaniards should be “as reasonable as possible” when it comes to energy consumption, but added that the government does not expect people’s daily lives to be disrupted. “We can tell the kids to turn off the lights or pull down the blinds. We need to make things like turning off the lights when we leave a room completely routine. It is also important to use the thermostat correctly,” she said.

On Friday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez ditched the tie and urged others to follow suit to save energy on air conditioning. “As you can see, I’m not wearing a tie,” he told reporters. “I have asked ministers, as well as leaders of the public and private sectors, not to wear ties unless it is necessary. So we can save energy, which is so necessary for our country.”

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