Despite the ongoing energy crisis, only half of EU member states have mandatory energy-saving measures in place for next winter, with most of the measures remaining voluntary and only targeted at public buildings, finds a new analysis from the Brussels-based non-profit European Environmental Bureau (EEB). 

The EEB’s research reveals significant disparities across the EU to reduce gas and electricity demand. Only 14 of the 27 EU countries have adopted mandatory measures to reduce energy use, with Poland, Lithuania, Cyprus and the Netherlands only having joined this group in the past six months. 

The most comprehensive gas-saving measures have come from countries previously importing large quantities of Russian gas, including Italy and Germany. But some less gas-dependent countries such as France and Spain have also brought in stringent measures targeting both the public and private sectors, as well as small businesses and large industries. 

On the other hand, Luxembourg, Austria, Malta, Nordic and Eastern European states tend to have weaker energy reduction measures in place. In addition, Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia have not introduced any national measures to reduce gas and electricity consumption in the wake of the EU energy crisis – although that included a third of EU nations as recently as December.

Portugal is the only country reporting transparently on energy savings implementation and progress, setting up a monitoring committee and providing analysis of specific measures, says the EEB.

“Reduced energy demand last winter led to lower energy prices and fewer emissions,” said Davide Sabbadin, senior policy officer for climate and energy at EEB, in a press statement. “This is great, but the question is how we got there. Unusually mild temperatures and sustained high prices cannot replace good policy. Energy-saving measures are more socially fair than high prices.

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“Governments must not shift the responsibility for the energy crisis onto the most vulnerable citizens. Mandatory reductions for businesses and the public sector can save energy in a more equitable and reliable way. We need bolder action from EU states now, as the exceptionally favourable conditions for energy savings last year may not happen again this winter. The EU should publicly monitor and evaluate the impact of these measures.”

Measures intended to directly reduce energy demand. Credit: EEB.