Minister Eamon Ryan says he is promoting change but it’s hard to been seen as a scrooge-like character
RATIONING of motor fuels, heating oil and gas is on the cards across Europe as the energy crisis continues, officials have warned.
The warning came as the European Commission and the International Energy Agency (IEA) joined forces to publish a public action guide to reducing household and business energy use.
The nine-point guide calls for turning down heating by one degree, returning to or maintaining work from home policies, reducing speed limits on main roads and implementing car-free Sundays.
Dr Fatih Birol, director of the IEA, said the energy crisis was not ending any time soon and two critical periods – the upcoming summer driving season and next winter’s heating season – would severely strain supplies.
“We may be left with the choice of either utilities will have to ration - cut the energy to consumers - or we do it ourselves by pushing the energy efficiency button,” he said.
The action guide, ‘Playing My Part’, is to be widely distributed across the EU.
It is presented as a multi-purpose plan that will help cut household bills, reduce reliance on Russian energy, support Ukraine and support climate action.
“You save money, you push Russia back, you are on the front line with the Ukrainians against Russia and at the same time you reduce emissions,” Dr Birol said.
He said the nine steps in the action guide could collectively save 600,000 barrels of oil per day.
For context, the EU imports about 2.3 million barrels of oil from Russia each day.
He said the amount of gas saved would equal all the gas supplied daily through Nordstream One, the biggest pipeline brining Russian gas to Europe.
It would also cut close to €500 off the average family bills.
Politicians from Germany and Luxemburg said the measures were essential but some needed to be regulatory rather than voluntary and must be the same in each EU country.
Environment Minister Eamon Ryan also urged a coordinated approach across the EU, saying the messaging was politically difficult and a united stance would help.
“I have already been engaging in some of this messaging and it’s very difficult politically,” he said.
“It’s very difficult not to be seen as a mean, scrooge-like character.
“How do you promote energy efficiency when people are struggling to heat their homes? That’s the real political difficulty.”
Mr Ryan has faced backlash publicly, from Opposition parties and from within sections of the coalition for his efforts to promote the kind of energy efficiency steps the EU and IEA are now urging.
He said a coordinated approach by all EU leaders would also help with selling the message within smaller countries where there was scepticism that the national response could have any impact on a situation as great as the war in Ukraine.
“We need maximum pressure. We need to do everything we can to shorten and stop this war,” he said.
Dr Patrick Graichen, top official in the German ministry for climate action, said the measures in the action guide were “a no-brainer".
“But politics doesn’t work that way,” he agreed.