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Person adjusting the temperature on a thermostat Photo: Adobe Stock
Turning down the thermostat by 1°C could save around 7% of the energy normally used for heating a home Photo: Adobe Stock

The International Energy Agency (IEA) and the European Commission (EC) have outlined a range of simple steps that people can take to reduce their energy use and save money. They claim the measures could save enough oil to fill 120 supertankers and enough natural gas to heat almost 20mn homes if adopted by all European Union (EU) citizens.

The actions outlined in Playing my part: How to save money, reduce reliance on Russian energy, support Ukraine and help the planet have been designed to encourage EU citizens to use less energy – not only to reduce their bills and greenhouse gas emissions, but to cut Europe’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels. Using less energy reduces the need for Russian oil and gas, thereby helping to reduce the revenue streams funding the invasion. 

 

According to the IEA, the typical EU household could save, on average, close to €500/y by following all the plan recommendations. If all EU citizens were to follow the recommendations at both home and in their workplace, it could save 220mn b/y of oil and 17bn cm/y of natural gas. 

 

Recommended steps 

The average heating temperature within homes across the EU is over 22°C, but many could comfortably accommodate 19°C or 20°C, the report says. Turning down the thermostat in a home by 1°C could save around 7% of the energy normally used for heating. For every degree lower more than €70 could be cut from an annual energy bill. Setting air conditioners 1°C warmer could also reduce the amount of electricity used by almost 10%, potentially saving €20/y. 

 

Meanwhile, in many homes and workplaces, default settings on condensing boilers can often be adjusted to increase efficiency and save up to 8% of the energy used to heat rooms and water. Setting up a boiler properly could save around €100/y, the IEA says.  

 

Other recommended steps include working from home whenever possible to avoid commuting. Commuting accounts for around a quarter of the oil used by cars in the EU. However, more than a third of jobs in the EU could be done from home – and working at home three days a week could reduce a household fuel bill by around €35/month, even taking into account the increased energy use at home, says the IEA.   

 

Car-pooling with neighbours, friends or colleagues is also recommended. Setting a car’s air conditioning 3°C warmer can also immediately improve a car’s fuel economy. These combined actions could save a household around €100/y. Reducing the average cruising speed on motorways by 10 kmph could save a further €60/y. 

 

Leaving the car at home for short journeys, especially if it is a large car, can save a significant amount of fuel. On average, around a third of car journeys in the EU are less than 3 km. Walking, cycling or using micromobility (such as an electric scooter) on short journeys could save a household €55/y. 

 

The report suggests more cities should promote car-free Sundays. They are already a regular fixture in Brussels, Edinburgh, Milan and Paris, which use them to promote public health, community-oriented spaces and cultural events. For those living in a city, leaving a car at home on Sundays could save a household €100/y. 

 

Commuting to work on public transport is also encouraged to reduce oil consumption. There is typically spare capacity on public transport in off‐peak periods that can be used to spread out the peak if employers allow flexible working hours. Public authorities can play an important role through temporary incentives to reduce fares for public buses, metro systems and light rail, notes the report. 

 

Finally, the IEA recommends that for distances under 1,000 km, taking a high-speed train should be considered rather than a plane whenever practical and affordable. Employers should encourage train journeys instead of short-haul flights for employees’ business travel or promote virtual meetings instead of travelling. Night trains are an option for travelling even longer distances and have the advantage of spreading traffic across different times of the day.  

 

The EC Director-General for Energy Juul Jørgensen comments: ‘Energy efficiency has the potential to be the most important policy initiative for reducing our dependence on Russian imports and responding to the current energy market challenges, both through short-term energy savings, and longer-term energy efficiency measures. Energy efficiency is an area where everyone can make a difference. This also has the potential to provide considerable savings to individual consumers at this time of high wholesale energy prices.’ 

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