Anyone who swims regularly has already experienced first-hand that the war in the Ukraine itself has had an impact on the water temperatures in Germany’s swimming pools. In many baths, the temperature has been lowered by a few degrees, which reduces energy consumption. The example shows how energy costs can be saved – and is part of the trend of a campaign presented by Economics and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) on Friday.
The campaign under the motto “80 million together for the energy change” is intended to call for more economical use of energy over the next three years. “Dear shower fans, an energy-saving showerhead saves 30 percent of the energy for hot water,” says one of the posters that Habeck presented. But the appeal goes not only to private consumers, for example to defrost the freezer compartment regularly. For example, companies should also be encouraged to use efficient machines and thus save energy.
Politically, the Greens are walking a fine line. On the one hand, renewable energies and economical consumption should be promoted, on the other hand, the party does not want to appear as a preacher of renunciation. The Economics Ministry is aware that there are a number of poorer households in which the heating is only turned on very sparingly in winter and there is hardly any potential for savings. Habeck predicted that the social issue would come up again this year “with great vehemence” when advance payments are due and the heating season begins again in autumn.
The announcement that a ten percent reduction in energy consumption is always possible sounds “to many ears like sheer mockery,” stressed Habeck. If people could only partially heat their homes and didn’t know how to make ends meet financially, then that was “the wrong approach”. The minister admitted that he was initially too bold with his ten percent target.
So that the appeal to save energy does not come down from above, Habeck forged a broad alliance of companies, associations, social partners, consumers and environmentalists, which met on Friday for an energy efficiency summit. According to a statement by the alliance, energy savings and increases in efficiency “are also necessary to reduce the increased cost pressure for private households, municipalities and the economy”. “Every kilowatt hour of energy saved contributes to our independence, reduces cost pressure and helps to achieve our climate goals,” it said.
Craftsman President Hans Peter Wollseifer explained after the meeting that it was in the interests of the companies themselves to work as energy-efficiently as possible. Significant savings could be achieved, for example, in car workshops through better building insulation and double glazing. Hairdressers can also use less energy, for example by turning off the tap more quickly when washing hair or by using thinner towels, which then require less energy to clean. Even if attention is already being paid to energy efficiency in the companies, efforts must be “significantly increased” in the near future, according to Wollseifer.
DGB board member Stefan Körzell also explained that lower consumption reduces the cost burden for households and companies. The employees in the trades, in industry and in the service sector are the real specialists when it comes to saving energy. Wherever works councils can have a say, reduced consumption is particularly noticeable. Körzell demanded that enormous efforts still have to be made in order to achieve greater energy efficiency in the building sector.
The German Environmental Aid (DUH) criticized that Habeck’s campaign only relied on appeals. Instead of taking action himself, the minister “shifts the responsibility primarily to consumers and gives shower head tips,” explained DUH Federal Managing Director Barbara Metz. According to them, however, the savings potential through optimized user behavior is only a few percent. “On the other hand, what really saves a lot of energy is the renovation of buildings, is the heat transition,” explained Metz. However, this does not require any appeals, “but strong government regulations and more funding”. What is needed is an immediate ban on installing gas heating systems in new buildings and in existing buildings from 2024, the efficiency standards in the Building Energy Act must be raised as quickly as possible, and minimum efficiency standards must be introduced.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Economic Affairs also wants to take part in the campaign itself. The air conditioning systems in the ministry are to be set to be less cool – the so-called target room temperature is being increased to 26 degrees.