At the extraordinary meeting of the Energy Council of the European Union (EU) on 26 July 2022, EU Energy Ministers agreed to voluntarily reduce natural gas consumption by 15% between 1 August 2022 and 31 March 2023.
This extraordinary measure was partly in anticipation of a partial or complete interruption in Russian gas flows to the EU, in a possible further escalation of EU-Russia relations.
Since July, most EU Member States have announced, implemented or are in the process of implementing voluntary measures at national and/or regional levels. The following measures were reported by Luxembourg and neighbouring Belgium and Germany to the Economic Governance Support Unit at the European Parliament. France was one of six Member States which did not send their information by 25 October 2022.
Out of 21, fourteen Member States carried out public awareness campaigns with information for households about energy-saving measures, while five Member States, including Luxembourg, provided explicit information such as advising households to lower temperatures by 1°C to 2°C. The saving measures are more often mandatory for companies across the EU while setting the maximum or minimum permitted heating temperatures in public administration buildings and offices was the most recommended energy-saving measure in public spaces.
Luxembourg (all measures are voluntary)
On 8 September 2022, Luxembourg presented a national campaign to reduce the country’s energy demand, in which citizens were encouraged to contribute and an online platform (www.zesummespueren.lu) was established to raise awareness and inform residents about the possible measures to take.
Households that use gas heating, for example, can save up to 10% just by lowering the temperature in their homes by 1°C to 2°C and more in unoccupied rooms.
According to government estimates, the 15% reduction could be achieved through voluntary measures provided each actor actively engaged in the campaign.
The municipalities were encouraged to take necessary measures to achieve a reduction of 10% to 20%, including recommendations to turn down their thermostats to 20°C.
The Ministry of Energy and Spatial Planning and the Ministry of the Economy have been in contact with the UEL (Union des entreprises luxembourgeoises), FEDIL (Fédération des industriels luxembourgeois) and other professional chambers in order to identify energy reduction opportunities and to develop an awareness strategy for their members. In future, a voluntary commitment programme will be launched with concrete measures in the industrial sector having been discussed and prepared with FEDIL.
On 28 September 2022, the Luxembourg Government announced further measures targeting households, including a gas price cap at 15% for the average price in September 2022, effective from October 2022 to December 2023, a freeze on electricity prices from January to December 2023 for customers with an annual consumption of less than 25,000 kWh and a temporary reduction in VAT rates from January to December 2023 (the standard VAT rate will drop from 17% to 16%; the intermediate rate from 14% to 13%; the reduced rate from 8% to 7%).
On 2 September 2022, the Belgian Federal Government decided to extend the support measures of VAT reduction and the social rate for one million households. Targeted measures for the general population included reduction in excise duties on petrol and diesel and reduced VAT rate of 6% on electricity and gas. VAT for investments in solar panels, solar water heaters and heat pumps were reduced from 21% to 6% for homes that are less than ten years old; the measure is valid until the end of 2023.
The Federal Government decided to lower the temperature in all its buildings to 19°C. Lighting in federal buildings and monuments are switched off between 19:00 and 06:00.
For public administrations, regional authorities take their own measures for their own administrations. Similarly, subsidies are provided by the regions to invest in isolation, renovation and installation of solar panels and heating pumps.
Belgium has also introduced mandatory measures to obtain energy certificates when selling a property.
Landlords and energy providers in Germany are obligated to provide households with information on their current energy use, the anticipated costs and the potential for savings. Households are also obligated to conduct tests of heating systems and to implement measures to increase their efficiency such as hydronic balancing and the use of insulation.
Clauses in rental contracts that obligate renters to ensure a minimum temperature were suspended. This measure is intended to enable tenants to conserve energy without breaching their contracts. The proposed price cap on electricity and gas will only apply up to a specific level of energy usage (a limit of 80% of average use is under discussion). Any use above the limit will be charged at market rates. This is intended to incentivise savings.
Public spaces and common areas that are not used for human habitation may not be heated, except in medical facilities, schools and day-care centres. New mandated maximum temperatures for work spaces were revised down to:
- 19°C for physically light and predominantly sedentary work;
- 18°C for light physical activity, mainly standing or walking as well as medium-heavy and predominantly sedentary work;
- 16°C for medium-heavy activity, mainly standing or walking;
- 12°C for physically heavy activity, except in medical facilities, schools and day-care centres.
The illumination of buildings and monuments from the outside with the exception of traffic safety, security and emergency lighting is prohibited. Instantaneous or decentralised hot water heaters shall be switched off if they are mainly used for hand washing, unless they are required for hygienic reasons.
Hot water temperatures shall be limited in central drinking water heating systems to the level necessary to prevent legionella, unless the operation of showers is part of the operating procedure, except in medical facilities and day-care centres for children. Non-commercial pool heating with gas or electricity from the public grid is also prohibited.
For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) the proposed price cap on electricity and gas will only apply up to a specific level of energy usage. Any use above the limit will be charged at market rates. This is intended to incentivise savings.
The operation of illuminated or light-emitting advertising installations is prohibited from 22:00 until 04:00 the following day.
Companies whose energy consumption exceeds 10 GW hours per year are obligated to implement all measures specifically identified in energy audits and assessed as economically feasible within eighteen months.
On 30 September 2022, the German Federal Government decided to reduce the VAT on gas consumption from 19% to 7%, valid until March 2024.
On 4 October 2022, the Federal Government adopted three relief packages worth a total of €95 billion, including the main objective of “Gas Price Brake”, which will limit the gas price charged to households and businesses.
On 19 October 2022, as a safety and energy security measure, the Federal Government announced that three nuclear power stations would continue their operation until 15 April 2023, unlike the previously agreed phasing out on 31 December 2022, as a crisis response and to avoid electricity shortages.
The above list of measures is not exhaustive, especially concerning the regional and municipal measures announced or applicable locally.