You Can Help Stop Climate Change At Home
Your home - where you can help stop climate change
Are you plugged in to energy saving? Households use 25% of the EU's energy and this figure is rising. The home is one of the areas where we can all reduce energy use and therefore CO2 emissions.
Basic steps like turning off the lights and turning down the thermostat can lead to huge savings. In July consumers across the EU got the right to choose their own gas or electricity suppliers. This move was backed by MEPs. As winter sets in and the first snows across Europe settle we look at energy in the home.
Energy use in buildings is steadily climbing up the political spectrum. Given that so much energy is used by homes and with simple steps like insulation, double glazing and efficient light bulbs leading to huge savings, it is not surprising MEPs have been urging action.
As long ago as 2002 Parliament backed a report on "Energy Efficiency of Buildings". Drafted by Spanish EPP-ED member Alejo Vidal-Quadras, one of its recommendations was that bills for heating and water consumption be in line with consumption. In other words people should be made more aware of how much energy they are using. In fact, the amount of energy used in everyday items can be substantial...
Did you know that...?
* A TV on "standby" uses 45% of the electricity used by a TV that is on.
* Electrical equipment on standby uses 10% of household energy in the EU.
* Turning down the thermostat just 1º means energy savings of 7%.
* Washing clothes at 30º C as opposed to 40º C uses 40% less energy and is generally as efficient.
* Leaving phone re-chargers plugged in uses energy - 95% of which is wasted.
Tell me more about my new choices
As a result of European directives, from 1 July 2007 the vast majority of EU citizens benefited from the opening of energy markets and the choice of electricity and gas supplier. The way proposed by the EU consists mainly in "unbundling" - the separation of supply and production activities from network operations.
Although consumers are not obliged to change their energy suppliers, such a change may ensure a better deal in terms of price and service. It is hoped that extra choice will lead to better competition between electricity and gas suppliers - encouraging better service.
It is too early for full statistics from specific countries about how many households have changed their supplier. However, there are indications that significant numbers of consumers have opted to switch suppliers.
MEPs back July liberalisation
In July this year Parliament backed the liberalisation measures as good for EU consumers. A further report by Mr Vidal-Quadras on the new measures, which was adopted in early July, concluded the following:
Unbundling is the most effective tool to promote investments in infrastructure, access to the grid for new companies and a more open market.
* The current level of unbundling in some countries is insufficient.
* The very different natures of the gas and electricity sectors makes the unbundling options more complicated for gas.
Speaking about his report and the new measures Mr Vidal-Quadras said "we are in a period where we need to optimise the use of energy and citizens need a radical change of attitude in their consuming habits, which requires that they know the real costs of energy". He went on to say that "this will only happen once the markets are really open to competition...when citizens will, in practice, be able to switch providers freely".
The Commission's forthcoming 3rd energy package aims to extend the liberalisation of gas and electricity and the right for consumers to choose their suppliers even further. It will tackle areas and involve countries where this right is not implemented. MEPs will debate the package later this year.
This article is the first of a series on energy use in the EU, look out for others in the coming weeks.