From September 1st, government measures will apply to reduce energy consumption. This saves energy, but each of us can do more. Exclusive data shows what really motivates people to change their behavior and what the speed limit would bring.

Germany is also fighting Putin with washcloths: More washcloths, fewer showers, that’s how each and every one of us should contribute. The idea, publicly expressed by Baden-Württemberg’s Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann, caused a sharp increase in search engine queries for the term “washcloth”, which is probably an indication that not all Germans were aware of what this tool could do.

Saving energy is the motto of the hour. That would actually have been needed to counteract climate change, experts say. But then right now, when the need is much greater given the skyrocketing prices. The government has written two long lists of how to save energy in Germany with new rules. One ordinance has a short-term effect from September 1st to the end of February and one from October for two years. Some examples of the measures contained therein are:

According to the Federal Ministry of Economics, these two regulations make a “small but indispensable contribution” to saving gas. According to initial estimates, the measures will reduce gas consumption by around 20 terawatt hours (TWh), which is two percent of annual requirements. At the same time, the measures pay off for private households, companies and the public sector: “If they are implemented, savings of a good 10.8 billion euros can be achieved in the next two years.” In addition, there are savings in electricity consumption of more than ten TWh .

A comparison is needed to assess whether two percent gas savings through such measures is a lot or a little. New calculations by the German Energy Agency (Dena) show that each of us citizens can save significantly more: “In the interests of sustainability and the social task of saving energy, each and every one of us should do something. In the short term, there is a significantly higher savings potential in the implementation of state regulations,” says Christian Stolte from Dena.

The data shows where, according to realistic, pragmatic calculations, the great savings potential lies dormant, which impacts our quality of life as little as possible. And that’s significantly more than the two percent that Habeck’s regulations bring. According to Dena, more than twice as much gas and a significant amount of oil could be saved in the building sector alone.

And that is also possible without significant sacrifices, restrictions or loss of quality of life. An example: If you heat your apartment or individual rooms by one degree less, you save six percent of the heating energy. With 20 instead of 22 degrees in the living room or 18 instead of 20 degrees in the bedroom, there would be a saving of twelve percent. If all households did this, 2.5 percent less gas would be needed per year, as the International Energy Agency has also calculated.

For Dena, there is particularly high savings potential in the building sector. Some factors cannot be determined by tenants themselves or tend to have a medium and long-term effect – such as insulation or multi-glazed panes. But the room temperature and clever ventilation show how much everyone can do. Another factor that is often underestimated is, for example, what savings can be made through a digitization offensive. All in all, energy specialist Stolte estimates: “Through our day-to-day behavior and the use of digital helpers, short-term savings of ten to 15 percent can be achieved in buildings alone.”

The second major area is traffic. Here, too, enormous savings beckon, especially if more people would switch from cars to local and long-distance public transport. But it will take a while before the offer is sufficiently attractive. The three months with the 9-euro ticket clearly showed that. A middle ground is to drive slower and more skilfully.

A look at the emotional discussion about speed limits in Germany shows that although it would only reduce gas consumption to a limited extent, it would reduce oil and CO emissions significantly: “A speed limit would save 13.2 TWh and thus offers hardly any less reduction potential than the entire industrial sector in the short term.” Again, the comparison here: all the measures from Habeck’s two ordinances added together save 20 TWh. So anyone who claims that the effect of a speed limit would be marginal for the environment and finances should look at these numbers.

In view of these high effects, the question arises as to why people haven’t been saving more energy of their own accord for a long time. “Some information about how you can save a significant amount of energy in everyday life without sacrificing quality of life has actually not yet reached most people. Campaigns would certainly help here,” says Christian Stolte from Dena.

And the energy expert also openly expresses one truth, namely that subsidizing energy for the general public could prevent one’s own energy saving: “It also takes a good deal of motivation for behavior to change. And high prices obviously have a stronger effect than the prospect of fighting climate change,” says Christian Stolte, adding: “People are currently paying close attention to what the state dictates or does financially for them. However, an extremely quick and effective way is to save energy yourself by acting prudently.”

The big leverage for savings are private households, i.e. the behavior of every single citizen. This cannot be enforced by law, but via the price and possibly also through appeals. With Robert Harbeck it sounds like this: “We are facing a national effort, and a strong interaction between the state, business and society is needed,” says Habeck, adding: “Every contribution counts.”