Energy is at the heart of modern life. It lights our streets, keeps transport networks moving and powers the myriad of electrical goods that fill our homes.
But it also accounts for eighty percent of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions and as recent events have shown, producing energy sometimes entails significant risks.
Unless we seriously reduce the amount of energy we consume, the results for the environment will be disastrous.
EU governments have pledged to reduce their energy use by 20 percent by 2020. The problem is that unless we make some major changes to our energy-hungry habits and make them quickly, we are going to miss that target.
||ITW. Catherine Pearce (EN)
European Environmental Bureau
“We’re not on track to meet our 2020 energy savings target. We’re only going to make it by about half. This is obviously extremely disappointing given that, not only in terms of energy saving contributing to reducing our CO2 emissions and the targets we have for that, but also the additional benefits that reduced energy use brings us.”
||Sequence Carrefour, Ecully, near Lyon
The situation is not hopeless. In Europe today we have the tools at our disposal to reduce significantly the amount of energy we use without having a negative effect on our quality of life.
The EU’s Sustainable Energy Europe initiative is showcasing a number of projects that show how practical, energy saving strategies can be put in place at grass-roots level.
This major international supermarket chain is progressively equipping its stores with new low-energy technologies. By 2020 it aims to reduce average energy consumption in its shops around the world by 20 percent.
The new system has been in place at this store near Lyon in the southeast of France for around six months.
||ITW: Sandrine Mercier (FR)
Director of Sustainable Development, Carrefour
“There are a number of good practices in this shop. We have economical lighting systems, which use LEDs or low energy neon tubes. In the frozen food section new freezers with doors use less energy than before to produce the cold needed. There is also a computerised system that controls the lighting, the shop’s bread ovens and, for example, in the evening when the clients have left it reduces the lighting and consumes less energy.”
Shoppers certainly seem aware of the need change ingrained attitudes to energy consumption
||ITW: Rémy Gomez (FR)
“It seems silly to say that we will change our habits when we have to and not when we choose to. Being obliged to change is never as good as changing things when and how we want to.”
||Sequence Sabadell. Luis and Maria Rosa’s house
And we can also reduce the amount of energy we use at home. Here in the Spanish city of Sabadell, the local authorities have equipped homes with intelligent electricity monitors, which can show in real time the amount of electricity a household is consuming.
||ITW: Lluís Subirana Rebolloso (CATALAN)
“We were surprised that there were electrical appliances that consume a lot of electricity, for example the electric oven. That is the device that causes the biggest increase on the monitor. The monitor is a kind of security system that allows us to know when we leave the house that all of the appliances are turned off.”
||Sequence. Maria-Rosa and Luis Coffee and TV
The simple fact of installing these kinds of monitors can save users up to fifteen percent on their electricity bills every year.
The meter was designed and developed by a small European company, created in 2006, which is convinced that a whole new market is opening up for energy efficient products.
||ITW: Mikel Aguirre (ES)
“Efergy’s goal is, little by little, to become a leader in this market and to be able offer not only products but also consultancy and other kinds of services for home consumers. I think the future will be defined by creating strategic partnerships with key companies that develop tomorrow’s technologies.”
||Sequence: Hungary flats
Public authorities have a huge role to play in reducing the amount of energy we use in Europe.
(Graphics ‘Local authorities’)
Every year local, national and European authorities spend around one thousand five hundred billion euros, nearly a sixth of EU GDP, much of it on energy intensive activities like building new homes or creating transport networks.
From 2012 EU governments have said public procurement rules should insist on energy efficiency criteria.
Sequence: Hungary flats
Here in the Hungarian capital Budapest, this huge Communist-era block of flats has been renovated to meet tough new energy efficiency standards.
The building now has solar heating panels on the roof and an efficient new central heating system.
It has been equipped throughout with new windows, and new, high-performance insulation, ensuring as little energy as possible is wasted.
The work has cut the building’s carbon dioxide emissions in half, largely thanks to public funding.
||ITW: Maria Csikai (HU)
"The support is important, I would say even indispensable, as it motivates people much more if they see that the reconstruction of a building or the energy efficiency improvements are important to the public authorities as well. In Hungary we have been carrying out these kinds of renovation programmes for several years now and in general residents themselves are willing to cover around 30 percent of the costs."
||Sequence Timea and Marcos Kiraly in their apartment:
And the building’s residents certainly seem happy with the changes. Timea Kiraly lives in the block with her young son Marcos.
||ITW: Timea Kiraly (HU)
“Well, first and foremost I noticed that the heating bill is much smaller. About one third lower than before. Also our sense of comfort is better, the new windows are beautiful and the house is beautiful as well.”
||Closing sequence. Night Lyon. Lights
Reducing the amount of energy we use in Europe is not an impossible goal. On the contrary it offers a win-win opportunity for Europe’s individuals and business to cut their bills and help the environment.
But time’s running out. If we are to reach the targets we’ve set ourselves, we must start making the changes now.