Climate column: Energy saving tips from the Economics Minister

Criticism came promptly when Economics Minister Robert Habeck recently presented a hands-on campaign to save energy called “80 million together for an energy change”. The national director of the German Environmental Aid (DUH), Barbara Metz, described Habeck’s project as a “fog candle”: “Instead of taking action himself, he shifts the responsibility primarily to the consumers and gives shower head tips.”

Upgrading the old shower head to a more economical model (saves 30 percent hot water) is one of the many pieces of advice Habeck’s ministry is issuing on posters and online, with the aim of reducing dependency on energy imports and protecting the climate. The DUH, on the other hand, criticizes the fact that the structural problems in the building stock, for example, would not be solved in this way.

So a sensible project or at least “window dressing” like that star commented (€)? Perhaps we should first look at it from the consumer’s point of view. A representative survey by the Federal Association of Energy and Water Management (BDEW) is illuminating, according to which 77 percent of citizens have already consciously tried to save energy in the past few months. 56 percent lowered the room temperature, 45 percent showered less frequently or for shorter periods, and 13 percent installed programmable thermostats on their radiators. Habeck seems to have struck a chord with the public. However, the reason for the austerity is not Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which only five percent of respondents named as a main motivation for their changed behavior. By far the most common reason given by 67 percent: increased energy costs. So many limit themselves simply for financial rather than moral reasons, understandably.

Screen saver, does anyone else do this?

From my point of view, this is where the campaign makes sense by making the savings potential of individual measures clear. For example, use the washing machine’s energy-saving program: saves 8 euros per year. Always use the lid when cooking: 27 euros (or 46 kilograms of CO₂, by the way). Switching off the router at night: 12 euros. In and of itself, that’s not an incredible amount, but it adds up. There were some things I didn’t know personally, for example that you can boil eggs with two centimeters of water in a saucepan instead of covering them completely with water. Or that it is more economical to bake with convection than with top and bottom heat. I felt caught when I was advised to defrost the freezer regularly. Yes, you should do it, sometime soon… And some things seem slightly out of date, such as the advice to put the computer to sleep instead of using a screen saver. Screen saver, does anyone else do that?

It goes completely unmentioned how much energy and money can be saved with environmentally friendly means of transport or by working from home. There is also nothing to be found on the connection between consumer behavior and energy consumption. One can certainly criticize these gaps. A look at the portal (or at a comparable one like “Quite simply saving energy” from the BDEW) seems to me at least worthwhile in order to discover a few adjusting screws for everyday life.

In science magazine Nature Felix Creutzig from the Berlin Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change also advocates drastically reducing energy consumption in order to reduce dependence on fossil raw materials. However – and this is where the criticism of the DUH comes full circle – the individual does not have many particularly effective measures in his hands. For example, lower speed limits on the streets, or higher efficiency standards for buildings. Only new laws will help here, not individual changes in behavior. But one doesn’t exclude the other.

What do you think of the Economics Minister’s campaign: useful, superfluous – or just a diversion? And are you already trying to save energy? Write to me at klimafreitag@sz.de.

(This text is from the weekly Newsletter climate friday you here for free can order.)

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