With Russia leveraging energy, many parts of Europe are aiming to reduce demand.


In eastern France, a dozen villages have turned off their streetlights at midnight. Barcelona offers home efficiency assessments. Warsaw subsidizes houses that replace fossil stoves with heat pumps.

With the war in Ukraine pushing up oil and gas prices and Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin showing his willingness to use Russia’s energy resources as a weapon, cities across Europe are finding different ways to reduce energy consumption.

As the largest European consumer of Russian gas, Germany may be the country most vulnerable to Russia’s energy scarcity, but many other countries also experience high prices at minimum prices and limited supplies.

The severity or mildness of the coming winter will be an important factor. A mild winter in Europe would reduce global demand for gas, as would ongoing Covid-related lockdowns in China, the world’s largest gas consumer. Conversely, a harsh winter with biting temperatures would increase demand and push prices even higher.

But European countries can hardly wait to see how the weather plays out.

To accelerate its energy independence from Russia, Italy has looked to Algeria as a potential new gas supplier, ramping up renewables and burning more coal to keep homes lit and businesses running.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, who has warned the country must brace for a total cut off of Russian natural gas, has said that to address the gas shortage, the government would draw up a measured austerity plan to limit energy consumption. He has also noted that France’s large nuclear power industry makes it less vulnerable than some of its European neighbors.

“Russia uses energy, like it uses food, as a weapon of war,” Macron said earlier this month.

Élisabeth Borne, the French prime minister, told lawmakers in early July that France would renationalize its state-backed electricity giant, Électricité de France, which produces most of the country’s electricity and operates all of its nuclear power plants.

In Belgium, the government reversed a decision to phase out nuclear power by 2025 and extended the lifespan of two reactors for another ten years. And the governments of Austria and the Netherlands have taken steps to switch to coal-fired power plants that were either closed or slated for phasing out. However, those actions have raised concerns that the European Union’s efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will be moot.

Lawmakers in Poland have backed measures that would allow them to increase their gas storage capacity and relax fuel trading rules, Reuters reported.

The UK’s National Grid gave an assessment of projected tight energy supplies this winter, saying in a report that “although Britain is not as dependent on Russian gas as the rest of Europe, it is clear that the cessation of gas flows to Europe could have a knock-on effect, including very high prices.”

The organization, which released an unusual early forecast to help the energy industry prepare for the coming colder months, said it could cope with expensive and unpredictable energy, along with potential power cuts, by shutting down coal-fired power plants. to set.

National Grid also encouraged greater participation in “demand side response,” which seemed to refer to the potential need for individuals to curtail or accept limits on electricity consumption.

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