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In response to rising energy prices and dwindling oil and natural gas imports from Russia, Germany is launching a set of binding measures to reduce energy consumption nationwide. Here’s what this entails.
In Germany, prices for gasoline and public transport surged on September 1st, as government subsidies expired. The price for natural gas — which half of all households use for heating — and for electricity has skyrocketed and food prices are affected by rising inflation.
The government is trying to encourage consumers and businesses to save energy in whichever way they can to prevent a shortage during the winter months as Russia continues to reduce flows of natural gas to Germany.
The Energy Saving Ordinance comes into force today for six months. This is what it entails:
- Retail stores may no longer keep their doors open throughout the day to reduce electricity consumption for air conditioning when it is hot outside — and for heating on cold winter days.
- Illuminated advertising must be switched off after 10 p.m., with only a few exceptions. If advertisements serve traffic safety, they remain switched on, for example, at railroad underpasses. Street lamps also remain on, and store windows may continue to be illuminated.
- Monuments and other buildings may no longer be illuminated at night. At least not for purely aesthetic reasons. However, emergency lighting will not be switched off, and illumination is permitted for cultural events and public festivals.
- In public buildings, halls and corridors will generally no longer be heated, and the temperature in offices will be limited to a maximum of 19 degrees. In places where heavy physical work is performed, temperatures will be even lower in the future. However, the restrictions do not apply to social facilities such as hospitals, daycare centres, and schools, where higher air temperatures are essential for the “health of the people who spend time there,” according to the Economy Ministry.
- Cutting back on warm water. Likewise, in public buildings, instantaneous water heaters or hot water tanks should be switched off if they are mainly used for washing hands. Exceptions are made for medical facilities, schools, and daycare centres. Some cities go even further. There, the showers in swimming pools and sports halls will remain unheated.
- Private pools may no longer be heated with gas and electricity, except for rehab centers, recreational facilities, and hotels. The new regulations will initially apply until the end of February.
The second set of rules will come into force in October, apply for two years, and stipulate longer-term energy-saving measures. For example, all owners of buildings with a gas heating system must have a heating efficiency checkup.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck from the environmentalist Green Party says he expects the measures to reduce gas consumption “by around two, two and a half per cent” and calls it a “small but indispensable contribution.”
Against the backdrop of gas shortages caused by a lack of Russian gas supplies, EU countries have committed to reducing their gas consumption by 15%. In Germany, the reduction target has been set at 20% per cent.