What emergency energy saving measures should my city take? 

3 experts came together to discuss energy frugality

Throughout Europe, municipalities are enduring hardships as a result of the energy crisis, struggling to provide services to their citizens and to contain utility expenses in their limited budgets. The most reactive of them have been undertaking demand-reduction initiatives to curb energy consumption, in an effort to mitigate prices and risks of shortages. Meet the leading experts that pioneered local initiatives to withstand the weaponization of energy supply from Russia. In a recent webinar they have shared how they have been able to simultaneously address the geopolitical crisis and the climate emergency, by devising energy saving practices applicable in urban environments. 

The three experts with their very different realities and backgrounds have been enriching the webinar that was held on Wednesday 15th of June called “Frugal and (self) sufficient cities, by will or by force!”. This was the first of an exploratory webinar series launched by Energy Cities along its hub’s theme “Resource-wise and socially-just local economies”. 

Julie Purdue, Head of the Mission for the Ecological Transition of the City of Lyon (FR) 

Major cities can achieve critical energy savings by tapping across diverse municipal competences and ownerships. Recalibrating indoor temperatures, essential lighting management and awareness-raising campaigns are just the tip of the iceberg of the comprehensive work pursued by the French city, which allowed the municipality to become dependent only by 15% to Russian natural gas. For the future, Lyon is planning to reframe energy saving measures into long-term and stable sufficiency frameworks that do not only respond to crisis but rearrange consumption patterns within our planet boundaries. 

Todor Tonev, Energy Advisor to the City of Sredets(BG)

It is fundamental to have effective energy auditing that sets priority areas to swiftly intervene. By identifying energy saving potentials in the municipal lighting system, the Bulgarian municipality showcased cleverness by touching upon every aspect of it: excess (by recalibrating the operating time), intensity (by readjusting the voltage) and technology (switching to LED bulbs). The measures delivered 10% electricity and 500 tCO2 yearly savings. Sredets, a town of 3.000 inhabitants, is truly a demonstration of how effectiveness in local crisis management is not a question of size, but a matter of capacity and willingness to act. 

Lydia Korinek, Policy Consultant at ZOE Institute for Future-fit Economies  

Co-author of the recent publication “Demand-side solutions to deal with energy shortages, Mrs Korinek highlighted crucial deficiencies in EU and national climate policy frameworks: they do not include features for reducing energy demands at the behavioural and operational level, without technological upgrades. From a macroeconomic perspective, the author drew the attention on how energy sufficiency initiatives undertaken by individuals, companies or public authorities, can mitigate utility prices and reduce bills on the consumption we cannot avoid. On an optimistic note, sufficiency measures do not necessarily mean a loss of well-being. They can also have positive impacts, as long as initiatives are thoroughly communicated to citizens and are supported by public participation. 

The debate that followed, brought to light fruitful understandings of how energy savings initiatives, embedded in sufficiency’s discourses, can relief municipalities from unsustainable public expenditures, as well as easing the escalating cases of energy poverty throughout Europe. Reducing reliance on foreign autocratic suppliers and ease socio-economic tensions arising from wasteful and overconsuming resource cycles, is a perspective only partially covered by the energy domain, but that entails economic restructuring centred on people and local value-chains. 

This has only been the first of seven webinars diving into the topic of sufficiency. This Hub will be digging deeper into the rationale of production and consumption patterns that are in line with our planet’s capacity to regenerate resources. It will explore how we can place cities and citizens at the centre of our debates and actions, while framing urban environments as regenerative landscapes for more resilient and robust local economies.  

Save the date for the second webinar of the series:  

  • 22 September on “How do we make Sufficiency desirable? Changing cultures and organizations 
  • October: Join us to discuss how to boost the acceptability of behavioural choices that could compromise our level of well-being.  

Stay tuned for more. 

@The article is written by Fausto Zaccaro and Miriam Eisermann.