5. October 2022 By Georg Benhöfer, Stephen Lorenzen and Lars Zimmermann
Warm socks campaign – German federal government prescribes short-term energy-saving measures
Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine, which violates international law, has threatened the security of Europe’s and Germany’s energy supply from the very beginning. In recent years, an average of about 3.2 billion m³ of natural gas per week was being imported from Russia to the EU during this time of year. Most recently, between 5 and 9 September of this year, around 600 million m³ were imported – in other words, around 80 per cent less. The flow of gas from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in Germany itself has fallen to zero since the end of August. Accordingly, energy security has been an ongoing issue for many weeks, and solutions are being worked on at full speed at the political level. One of these solutions is Germany’s Ordinance on Securing the Energy Supply via Measures Effective in the Short Term (Verordnung über kurzfristige Energieeinsparmaßnahmen, EnSikuMaV). The purpose of the ordinance is to implement short-term energy-saving measures, particularly in residential and non-residential buildings. The regulations affect public enterprises, the energy, real estate and tourism industries as well as trade.
The key measures at a glance
Gas and district heating suppliers must implement a slew of information requirements. They must inform their customers of their energy costs and consumption from the previous and current billing period once by 30 September, or at latest, by 31 December. They must also determine the savings potential of reducing room temperature by one degree Celsius due to the expected prices of the basic supply and also share this information with their customers.
There are also regulations on public non-residential buildings. These include, for instance, town halls, but also companies that provide public services and are under the financial or political control of a local authority. This may also affect municipal utilities, depending on the structure of ownership. The most important regulations for public non-residential buildings include the following:
- In general, spaces that are not used for residential purposes may no longer be heated. Exceptions to this include critical institutions such as schools or hospitals.
- A maximum temperature of 12 to 19 degrees is prescribed for workspaces in public non-residential buildings, depending on the type of work performed there.
- Instantaneous water heaters or boilers, such as are traditionally found in small kitchens or washrooms, as well as other decentralised drinking water heating systems must be switched off.
Minimum temperatures of 12 to 19 degrees apply to workspaces in workplaces. Companies are therefore not allowed to heat their workspaces to more than 19 degrees, despite occupational health and safety directives.
There are also other smaller measures:
- Retailers are no longer allowed to permanently leave their shop doors open.
- Advertisements may no longer be illuminated between 10 am and 4 pm. This does not include lighting that is part of street lighting in the broader sense, such as lighting at petrol stations.
- Buildings and monuments that may no longer be illuminated from the outside will also remain dark.
- Using gas or electricity to heat private pools is prohibited.
Great lengths to meet information requirements and lots of small tactics
The measures in the ordinance are intended to save natural gas in as many places as possible – even in small ones. In particular, the gas and district heating suppliers’ obligation to inform their customers will lead to a great deal of effort in meeting the requirements. The German Association of Energy and Water Industries (Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft, BDEW) has criticised this measure accordingly, but was unable to assert itself during the hearings on the procedure. For tenants, this will hopefully soon mean more transparency about impending additional payments.
The Ordinance on Securing the Energy Supply via Measures Effective in the Short Term makes it clear once again: we are in an exceptional situation. Every exchange of one degree Celsius for a thick pair thick socks and a warm jumper helps – and not just Germany’s energy security, but the people in Ukraine, too.
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