Energy sufficiency, a political ghost

Policy op-ed by Claire Roumet


Earlier this month, I saw an original advertisement published by a large French local authority to recruit an energy sufficiency advisor. The job description refers to gathering information about energy use and raising awareness about how to reduce it, but does not mention questioning these very needs.

However, thinking or rather rethinking our needs should inform our territorial energy policies. After years of CO2 reduction, energy efficiency and renewable energy production objectives, the next decade must address this issue, not by stigmatising uses, but by starting a real local-based debate leading to a concrete objective, as proposed by the authors of this excellent article (in French) about the challenges of energy sufficiency. But contemplating energy sufficiency while adopting “recovery” plans is contradictory as recovery does not imply a transformation or rethinking (We are organising an information webinar with the European Commission on the opportunities that national recovery plans may provide in terms of local green transition on 31st May at 2 pm).

The prevailing discourse on consumer education never ceases to strike me, with its often paternalistic and prescriptive views about what is a “good” buy or substitute. Basically, all energy policies can be summed up as follows (even now and despite all the strategies that say the opposite for the 2050 horizon): switching from diesel to electric, but not reducing mileage; switching from gas to insulation but not downsizing homes.

Recently, the need to reduce meat consumption has emerged as one of the challenges in tackling global warming. In its new series of articles, “Readers reply”, The Guardian tried to assess the need for meat and dairy products on a national scale by asking the question: “How big would Britain have to be for all its meat, milk and eggs to be ethically farmed?” .The answers varied, with one of the most robust figures putting possible production at just 10% of current consumption.

Here again, it is more about substitution, since we have to eat and can reduce waste and because living on love alone, as the stories say, is not possible!

But where is the real potential for reduction discussed, planned and evaluated?  Where are the negawatts? Where are these sources of non-consumption?

Let’s look at two graphs, starting with the CO2 emission graph to clarify where we must concentrate our efforts:

Now let’s have a look at the consumer profiles, at the EU level only, because behind the national averages there are great disparities that hide the real issues, the famous non-consumption sources….


Source : https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/global-sustainability/article/unequal-distribution-of-household-carbon-footprints-in-europe-and-its-link-to-sustainability/F1ED4F705AF1C6C1FCAD477398353DC2

As the exam season is coming soon, here is your exam question: “using the two graphs above, devise an energy sufficiency policy for your territory” (ideally you would need the same graphs for your local area). You have one year to have it adopted by the municipal council. You can start now

About

Author

Claire Roumet

Publication date

May 18, 2021