Engineer Kevin Ha and his equally nimble friends had been acting against wasteful businesses in Paris long before Russia started cutting energy supplies to Europe in a battle of wills over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. As such, the campaigners were precursors of the energy economy drive becoming all the rage in France, Germany and elsewhere. Their message — that everyone can contribute — is almost word-for-word what public officials from cabinet ministers to mayors are saying now, too.
“Everyone can have a positive impact at their own level, by adopting good practices, by doing the right things to reduce their overall energy footprint,” the 30-year-old Ha said on a recent night of light-extinguishing on the Champs-Élysées boulevard.
The stakes are high. If Russia severs the supplies of gas it has already drastically reduced, authorities fear Europe risks becoming a colder, darker and less-productive place this winter. It’s imperative to economize gas now so it can be squirreled away for burning later in homes, factories and power plants, officials say.
“Europe needs to be ready,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “To make it through the winter, assuming that there is a full disruption of Russian gas, we need to save gas to fill our gas storages faster. And to do so, we have to reduce our gas consumption. I know that this is a big ask for the whole of the European Union, but it is necessary to protect us.”
And although Europe is scrambling to get energy from elsewhere, any difficulties this winter could be a harbinger of worse to come if Russian gas supplies are completely severed and stay off through 2023, said France’s minister overseeing energy, Agnès Pannier-Runacher.
“If gas deliveries are cut by the end of the year, that will mean we’ll have a full year without Russian gas, so the following winter could be even harder,” Pannier-Runacher told French senators.
Hence the mounting appeals — already familiar to exasperated parents of wasteful teenagers everywhere — for Europeans to take shorter showers, switch off power sockets and otherwise do what they can.
Germany had been getting about a third of its gas from Russia, making the EU’s biggest economy and most populous nation conspicuously vulnerable. Energy saving is in full swing, with lights going off, public pools becoming chillier and thermostats being adjusted.
The glass dome of the Reichstag, the parliament…
Read More: Cold showers, no lights: Europe saves as Russian gas wanes