German environmentalists call for caps on energy usage

Germany's Economics Minister is set to unveil a new campaign to convince households to restrict their energy usage - but experts say it doesn't go far enough.

Kettle boiling
A boiling kettle in a German household. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Andrea Warnecke

Speaking to RND on Friday, the German Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND) urged the government to go further by introducing legal caps on energy consumption over the coming months. 

“An advertising campaign aimed at individual households would not do justice to the magnitude of the task,” said Antje von Broock, executive director of BUND. 

Broock said the group welcomed the launch of the Economics Ministry’s campaign to save energy. “But big steps can only be taken with binding measures”, she said. 

As Germany struggles to limit its use of fossil fuels amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, the environmentalists say that every industry should be reducing its energy consumption by at least ten percent. 

READ ALSO: How much money will you get from Germany’s energy relief measures?

The Minister for Economics and Climate Protection, Robert Habeck, is set to reveal plans for his energy saving campaign to fellow government ministers on Friday. 

Under the slogan, “Germany does it efficiently” (Deutschland macht’s effizient), the campaign will promote energy independence and climate protection with newspaper advertising, electronic billboards and posters at bus stops, as well as events, energy consultancy services and an information hotline. 

Filling the gas reserves

Habeck has been calling on citizens to reduce their energy usage for several months, with the aim of ensuring that Germany has full gas and oil reserves in time for winter.

The government is concerned that Russia could use its energy supplies as leverage against EU countries like Germany following its invasion of Ukraine. 

“The gas storage facilities must be full by winter or else we will be in a situation where we can be easily blackmailed,” Habeck warned at a press conference in May.  

While the Green politician has stopped short of official caps, he has previously claimed that it would be possible for the country to cut its energy use by 10 percent. 

READ ALSO: Russia using energy ‘as weapon’, says Berlin

“Saving energy is a joint national task in which politics, industry, companies, consumers can all help so that it succeeds,” he said. “Those who save energy protect the climate, strengthen the country and look after their bank balance.”

The government is also turning to regulation to help meet its energy targets.

In the second half of the year, Habeck plans to amend the Building Energy Act to ensure that solar roofs become the legal standard and companies must comply with strict rules when replacing existing heating systems. 

READ ALSO: Why Germany has urged households and businesses to cut down on gas


Advertising campaign – (die) Werbekampagne 

save energy – Energie sparen 

dependence – (die) Abhängigkeit 

blackmail – erpressen 

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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EU ministers urge unity after Germany’s energy ‘bazooka’

EU finance ministers on Monday pleaded for unity after Germany announced a €200 billion plan to help German households and businesses pay for high energy prices, amid accusations that the EU's biggest economy was acting alone.

EU ministers urge unity after Germany's energy 'bazooka'

Europe is struggling with historically high energy prices as it faces an early autumn cold snap and a coming winter almost certainly to be endured without crucial Russian gas supplies because of the war in Ukraine.

Many EU countries have announced national programmes to shield consumers from the high prices. But Germany went the furthest on Friday when it announced its mammoth plan, which will see help pouring to Germans for two years.

Arriving to talk with his eurozone counterparts, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner insisted the spending was “proportionate” to the size of Germany’s economy and said his goal was to use as little of the money as possible.

READ ALSO: Germany to spend €200 billion to cap soaring energy costs

But Germany’s largesse rankled several EU capitals, some of which feared their industries could take severe blows while Germany’s sits protected, deforming the EU’s single market.

Outgoing Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has slammed Berlin for its lack of solidarity and coordination with EU partners.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, without directly criticizing Berlin, called on partners to agree a common strategy against the price shock and for countries to refrain from going it alone.

“The more this strategy is coordinated, united, the better it is for all of us,” he said.

Risk to ‘European unity’

Others pointed to the unprecedented solidarity shown in the Covid-19 crisis in which the 27 EU nations, against all expectations, approved a jointly financed €750 billion recovery plan.

“Solidarity is not only on the German shoulders, I think this is something that we have to deliver at European level,” said EU economics affairs commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.

“We have very good examples from the previous crisis on how solidarity can react to a crisis and also reassure financial markets. I think that this is our goal,” he said.

While a Covid-style recovery plan is not in the cards for now, Le Maire said €200 billion in loans and €20 billion in aid should be devoted to REPowerEU, a programme to help countries break their dependence on Russian gas.

READ ALSO: Will Germany set a gas price cap – and how would it work?

Bruegel, a highly influential think tank in Brussels, called the German plan a spending “bazooka” that many EU countries were unable to match, creating a potential source of animosity.

“If the German gas price brake gives German business a much better chance to survive the crisis than, say, Italian business, economic divergences in the EU could be deepened, and European unity on Russia undermined,” it said in a blog.