EU countries unite to implement austerity measures to tackle rising energy costs

ANKARA

European Union (EU) countries recently announced new emergency measures to reduce rising energy bills by researching alternative energy sources, revitalizing idle nuclear power plants, increasing coal production and rapidly replenishing natural gas inventories.

The moves came in response to rising energy costs amid a global energy crisis sparked by the Russian-Ukrainian war that broke out on Feb. 24. Since then, the EU has imposed seven rounds of sanctions on Russia, intending to cripple its economy by banning gold. , oil and coal imports.

The war not only resulted in an unprecedented rise in energy and food prices, but also triggered a global economic recession and high inflation.

The historic peak in natural gas and electricity prices, in particular, has had a negative impact on all market players, with European countries implementing very different measures to protect consumers and businesses from high prices. energy while ensuring security of energy supply throughout the winter.

Germany

Germany has been overly dependent on Russian supplies due to its very close energy ties with pre-war Russia. However, difficulties have emerged from record oil and food prices for businesses facing more costly expenses, as well as for German households whose incomes have plummeted while struggling with high inflation.

In order to minimize the impact of rising energy costs on households, the German government has paid each taxpayer a one-off sum of €300.

Fuel taxes were temporarily reduced and citizens received unlimited public transport passes valid on train, bus and metro for €9 per month between June and September.

Energy saving measures have been extended to public institutions. Public buildings will not be heated above 19 degrees Celsius and hot water will be cut off in these buildings, except for hospitals and social facilities. Corridors and low-traffic areas of administrative buildings will not be heated.

Lights in government buildings and monuments will be turned off if used for purely aesthetic reasons.

The plan also introduces new restrictions for businesses, requiring them to turn off lights in storefronts overnight. They will be required to close doors while their stores are heating to improve energy efficiency.

Several coal-fired power stations that were due to be shut down will now be reactivated to save gas for the winter. The government has also started the process of extending the life of the last three nuclear power plants in the country.

France

The government offered low-income households an inflation bonus of €100.

Following a government decree announced in June, an extension to the end of the year was applied to freeze natural gas prices at October 2021 levels.

The increase in wholesale electricity prices has been limited to 4% for one year. An initiative to reduce energy consumption by 10% has been adopted and heating and cooling levels in public buildings have been readjusted. Low-income French households received fuel aid in the form of a €100 inflation bonus.

The country has also regulated the use of air conditioning. Government offices will only be able to turn on the air conditioning if it is over 26 degrees Celsius inside, and a limit will apply to a maximum of 19 degrees Celsius.

Window lighting must be turned off between 01:00 and 06:00 GMT.

Public service announcements have been designed to encourage energy savings.

Great Britain

Millions of British citizens have started to receive additional financial assistance to cope with rising energy prices. Low-income households began receiving the first batch of a £650 cost-of-living allowance in July. And in October, an energy rebate of £400 will be distributed in six monthly installments.

In the autumn, pensioners will receive an additional one-off payment of £300.

The government will invest £700m in the Sizewell C nuclear project as part of a plan to secure future electricity supplies.

In a sea change in policy, the government declared its support for hydraulic fracturing of shale gas. The operating periods of some coal-fired power plants, which were scheduled for closure, have been extended.

It is expected that the new British Prime Minister, who will be appointed on September 5, will determine new measures to deal with rising costs, ensure energy savings and secure supplies.

Italy

Fuel taxes have been reduced slightly and financial support will be given to low and middle income families for their bills with a bonus of €200.

The government has signed a natural gas supply agreement with Algeria.

Subsidies will be granted for investments in solar energy and the contracts of energy companies have been protected against unilateral changes.

According to the government’s draft emergency savings plan, household heating will decrease by 2 degrees Celsius while street lighting at night will decrease by 40% and shops will have to close early.

Spain

Spain has issued a decree ordering companies to limit air conditioning to 19 degrees Celsius in summer and heating to 27 degrees Celsius in winter.

The government also ordered stores to turn off their windows from 22:00 GMT. In addition, automatic door locks will be installed to prevent customers from leaving doors open when heating systems are on.

From October, the VAT on natural gas will drop from 21% to 5%. A price cap for natural gas was adopted for electricity production and citizens and businesses were invited to apply energy saving measures.

Belgium

Social energy tariffs for low-income citizens have been extended and broadened to include more households.

People using fuel oil for home heating received a payment of €225.

Alongside a temporary reduction in VAT on electricity from 21% to 6% between April 1 and July 1, all Belgian households received a one-time heating check for €100.

Special consumption taxes on diesel and petrol have been lowered and VAT rates have been reduced on various products, including heat pumps, solar panels and thermal insulation materials.

All lights in public buildings were turned off between 7:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. GMT.

Temperatures in the buildings will vary between a minimum of 19 degrees Celsius and a maximum of 27 degrees Celsius.

The operational life of two nuclear power plants, which were scheduled to close in 2025, has been extended by ten years. The operating times of two additional reactors have also been extended.

Swiss

The Swiss government has urged people to save energy to avoid an energy crisis during the winter.

Residents were urged to reduce home heating, use less hot water and turn off all unnecessary electrical appliances.

Serbia

The government has prepared a plan to reduce energy consumption by 15% compared to last year. The use of decorative luminaires and public lighting has been reduced.

A project has been launched to expand the use of solar panels, LED lighting, improve building insulation and includes recommendations for energy savings.

New reductions have been offered to households that have reduced their electricity consumption compared to last year.

Under a joint EU agreement, EU countries have set themselves the goal of filling natural gas reservoirs to 80% capacity by November 1.

In the event that Russia cuts off natural gas supplies to Europe, the EU has drawn up a contingency plan in which all participating countries are required to reduce their gas consumption by 15%.

The bloc had announced that it would intervene urgently in the electricity market to counter the rapid rise in prices.

Options such as unbundling the costs of resources used for electricity generation, raising the cap on natural gas prices or freezing gas prices are all considered under this intervention.

The cost of natural gas has quadrupled in the past six months and increased twelvefold over the past year in Europe. Similarly, wholesale electricity prices have increased eightfold in one year and quintupled in six months.

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