Could a behavior change campaign save energy and reduce Russian gas imports? | Energetic efficiency

There’s a poster from World War II showing a red-faced couple looking angrily at their daughter as she adds more fuel to their fire. The caption reads: “Save fuel to craft ammo for battle.”

It was part of a series of public campaign posters designed to elicit a collective response to the need to save energy for the war effort. The message was clear: stop using so much fuel, because it is needed for fighting troops.

Today, as Europe and the UK try to move away from their reliance on Russian fossil fuels, there is yet to be a similar call for collective action from the people.

But Russia derives 40% of its revenue from fossil fuel exports, so any reduction in demand for oil and gas will affect Vladimir Putin’s finances. Europe imports 40% of its gas from Russia and 25% of its oil, so any drop in consumption could have a significant impact.

The UK is less dependent on Russian fossil fuels; less than 4% of the UK’s total gas supply and 8% of the UK’s oil demand in 2021 came from Russia, according to government figures.

But in an interconnected energy world, if Europe reduces its imports of Russian oil and gas, it will have to source supplies elsewhere, which will help to tighten global supplies and raise global oil and gas prices.

A recent paper from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change indicates that reducing our consumption of oil and gas could be an important tool to help Europe meet the medium-term challenge of moving away from Russian energy.

According to Professor Nick Eyre, director of the Center for Energy Demand Solutions Research at the University of Oxford, there is a need to meet energy demand now, both because of the Ukraine crisis and to combat climate change.

Reducing demand and decarbonizing our energy systems is something we should be doing anyway for climate reasons, Eyre said, in order to reach our net zero goals. “This energy security and price crisis is another incentive to do so,” he said.

“It will be expensive – but a one-off tax on companies that, at best, have had a pretty dodgy relationship with Russia, would help pay for it.”

Eyre said collective action was needed, led by the government, which should come up with immediate detailed policies on decarbonising home heating in the UK.

Home heating produces around 14% of the UK’s emissions, and decarbonising the way homes are heated – meaning more efficient homes and electrifying most heating systems – would cost around £200bn. pounds over the next 30 years, according to the Institute for Government.

By 2050, emissions from residential buildings must drop to zero at a rate of 3.4% per year based on current emission levels, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Eyre thinks any new energy supply policy – expected to be announced by Boris Johnson in the coming days – will be meaningless unless it includes energy reduction measures and the presentation of detailed plans to decarbonise our houses.

“If it’s just building nuclear power plants, it would take 10 years, so it’s not a very sensible strategy,” Eyre said. “Energy efficiency and renewables can deliver what we need faster and less dangerously.”

Molly Scott Cato, a former Green MEP and professor of economics at the University of Roehampton, said the UK government should launch a massive publicly funded national home insulation scheme, backed by information campaigns on the efficient use of energy, in particular by reducing the thermostat. settings on central heating systems and the introduction of a 55mph speed limit on the national road network to reduce energy demand.

Public information messages could be created as part of this focus on the twin wins of helping the war effort against Putin and getting the UK to meet its climate targets to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse effect in order to reach a goal of net zero by 2050.

Target areas could include where individuals can make changes through collective action to reduce energy demand and national policy areas.

Behavioral changes that could make a difference

  • Lower your boiler thermostat by 1C. If everyone in the UK did this, it would reduce their energy demand by 10%. Energy bills would be cut by £670m, while saving 3.5m tonnes of CO2 a year, according to the Energy Savings Trust.

  • Set your heating so that it only comes on when needed. This is estimated to reduce a household’s electricity consumption by 2.8% and gas consumption by 2% (Energy Savings Trust).

  • Set thermostats to a maximum of 19°C and water temperatures in heating systems to a maximum of 55°C, according to the Climate Change Commission.

  • Keep your shower time to four minutes. This could save a typical household 950 kWh of energy and 195 kg of carbon emissions per year; equivalent to driving 700 miles from Birmingham to Aberdeen and back (Energy Savings Trust).

  • Switching off the lights when leaving a room will save you around 70kWh of energy and 17kg of carbon per year, equivalent to driving 100km from London to Canterbury (Energy Savings Trust).

  • Insulate your home. A fully insulated home is 50% more energy efficient than a property that has no insulation, according to Eyre.

  • Reduce household energy demand by introducing a four-day week and encouraging more home working, says the Center for Research into Energy Demand Solutions.

  • Accelerate the replacement of gas boilers with heat pumps. Following the failure of the Green Homes Grant, the Government will launch its replacement on April 1, 2022. The Boiler Upgrade Scheme will provide a £5,000 grant to replace gas boilers with air-source heat pumps. Switching from a typical gas heating system to an air-source heat pump could save around 9,200 kWh per year (Energy Savings Trust).

  • Increase the use of renewable energies, which are now the cheapest form of energy production on the market. 649 solar and wind farms already have a building permit; if they went ahead they would save more gas than what is currently being imported by the UK from Russia, according to Carbon Brief.

  • Replace fossil fuel cars with electric cars. A fully electric vehicle could save 2 tonnes of CO2 per year and help end fossil fuel dependency (CCC).

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