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Use energy crisis as chance to save it, environment agency tells Germans

Turning down building heating and driving slower could avoid a supply crisis if Russia stopped delivering gas and oil, Germany’s enviro agency said.

30 June 2022 - 14:20 By Vera Eckert
Lower gas flows sparked warnings this week that Germany could fall into recession if Russia's supplies halted altogether. File photo.
Lower gas flows sparked warnings this week that Germany could fall into recession if Russia's supplies halted altogether. File photo.
Image: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

Turning building heating down by two degrees and limiting driving speeds could immediately cut energy consumption and avoid a supply crisis if Russia stopped delivering gas and oil, Germany’s environment agency said on Thursday.

While the country’s industry, power utilities and fuel suppliers are wary of cuts to Russia’s energy exports in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, the agency argues energy savings could lessen the angst and economic damage, while helping the climate.

A study by the Umweltbundesamt agency, which reports to the environment ministry, proposed turning down buildings’ heating and limiting speeds to 100km/h on motorways, 80km/h on other roads and to 30km/h in towns and cities.

Through these measures, buildings could use 10% less energy and road traffic use 7% to 9% less, the study said.

Together, the two sectors account for more than half of all energy consumption and each for 20% of the annual carbon dioxide emissions in Europe’s biggest economy.

They still exceed their CO2 targets, whereas industry and agriculture have met theirs.

Apart from the two immediate measures, companies could also encourage working from home, which has already become commonplace during the coronavirus pandemic, and promote commuting by public transport, said UBA president Dirk Messner.

Beyond winter “(the government) should provide funding for technologies that improve efficiency in the building sector, such as heat pumps for homes and district heating systems in cities and towns”, Messner said.

The agency also suggested launching a training offensive to address a big challenge to modernisation, the scarcity of skilled workers.

Germany last year reduced CO2 emissions by 39% compared with 1990 but aims to reach a 65% reduction by 2030.


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