In recent years some focus in EU and national policies has been on improving
energy efficiency, but less on energy conservation. Discussions of
how much energy we need to consume has not made their way
into practical policies.
The energy efficiency
focus have strengthened the attention on the many possibilities to
fulfil the same energy services with less energy inputs:
heating of houses with less heat use, equipment with very little stand-by
consumption, cars with much longer mileage, etc. However it has also
lead to perverse effects, such as consumer information leading to more
of large washing machines that are very efficient when used with full
load, but uses more energy than smaller machines, if only filled up with
a small load, as most families do in daily life. This has has happened
with the EU labelling for washing machines that is now being revised.
Fundamentally the lack of focus on limits to energy use tend to hide
the sustainability limits to consumption of energy and resources on our
finite planet. It can also hide possible strategies and policies to increase
present and future wellbeing without increasing energy services.
Given the lack of focus on energy sufficiency and on energy conservation,
the opportunities to address energy sufficiency with policy measures
have not been explored much in recent years. There are good reasons to
address this in national policies as well as in EU policies.
Drivers for Energy Sufficiency / Less Energy Services.
In some cultures and subcultures sufficiency is seen as morally favourable.
While this moral aspects have been on the decline in recent years in
the main-stream European cultures, it re-emerges in new movements,
such as the "living lightly" movement. Also the "Buy
Nothing Day" (http://www.buynothingday.co.uk/) is an example of
A different, more important
issue is the difference between on the one hand economists and business
and on the other hand a large part of the
population. The mainstream economic theories deal with economic growth
as an important target for economic policies, seeing it as a necessity
to avoid large unemployment, and ultimately for a stable society with
happy citizens. Business is similarly based on economic growth as a necessity
for prosperity and even for survival. As each company has an objective
of growth, overall economic growth makes it easier for companies to realise
their individual growth objectives and they will therefore favour overall
economic growth. On the other hand, a large part of the population is
more interested in status quo, where developments are not of a material
nature and where stability and security is in focus instead of growth.
Further, a part of the population is in favour of a slower, less stressful
life, for instance with more free time instead of wage increases when
productivity goes up. The recent French "Decroissance" movement
builds primarily on these ideas, while they also use the moral arguments.
Even the economic
growth does no have to be linked with material growth. In the capitalistic
system economic growth does not necessarily have
to be linked to material growth. Material streams can stay the same or
even reduce while their value increases because of higher quality, miniturisation
of functions, or special features. Organic food, portable electronic
devices such as smart mobile phones, and design/arts are recent successful
examples of this. There are different opinions of how far this can decouple
economic growth from streams of materials and energy service levels.
While individual products increase in value per kg, the increased wealth
will increase the consumers' abilities to do more resource-consuming
purchases, such as longer air travel. Also the advanced products sometimes
require more advanced materials that are more resource-intensive to supply
than more traditional products, even if they have lower weight or size.
In any way there are substantial potentials for economic growth without
or with much less material growth.
Sufficiency in Energy Scenarios
Energy sufficiency have been included in several proposed energy scenarios
of NGOs, most prominently in the French Negawatt scenario, but also
in the INFORSE visions/scenarios and in ZeroCarbonBritain. The INFORSE
scenarios have less growth in energy services for Western Europe than
traditional forecasts, and reductions in transport based on analysis
of the transport needs with a more optimal structure of cities, etc.
Policies and Strategies for Energy Sufficiency
Policies and strategies to address energy sufficiency are sometimes but
not always different for policies and strategies for energy efficiency.
They can be based on the three objectives mentioned above:
moral aspects of reducing environmental impacts on our limited earth.
desire of stability and stress-reduction. In product policy this
translate into using less resources on products during their life-time.
Then the resources can be used for more free time, to ease burden
of current and
future familty budgets, but of course also for buying other goods and services.
The focus here should be on life-cycle considerations in purchases, so
the consumer buys products that are affordable to use, also in the
event of energy
price crisis. Energy efficient cars and houses are good examples of products
where limited consumption is an insurance against economic problems in
the case of energy price crisis.
- Quality and miniturisation
of products and functions.
Examples of consumer actions to increase energy sufficiency, and policies
to promote this
Buy household goods that are sized to average loads.
Labelling that signals energy use
not energy efficiency
Higher energy efficiency requirements
for large products
Consumer information on the need
Taxation of products according to energy consumption above a baseline
Buy smaller, more energy efficient/better located house
Higher tax on inefficient housing,
and on energy
No tax incentive for commuting
Buy small car
Taxation of car according to weight
Petrol tax (small cars use less fuel)
Benefits of small cars in parking etc
Buy energy efficient/electric car
Taxation of cars according to mileage
Benefits of electric cars in parking etc.
Use public transport/bike
Make public transport more convenient
Make bicycle use more convenient
Increase car costs relatively
Promote moving closer to work
No tax incentive for commuting
Increase transport costs
Travel less, shorter holiday trips
Promote national/regional holiday
Taxes/env. costs on transport
Buy products that lasts longer
Taxation of products
Taxes/requirements for repair-ability, upgrade-ability
Buy less (on credit)
Regulate credit markets to reduce consumer credits
Possible EU Energy Policies to Promote Sufficiency
Sufficiency can be
included in a number of EU policies, from overall economic policies to
speific energy efficiency measures. In the energy
efficiency policies under preparation, sufficiency can be included
in the revised energy efficiency action plan (maybe renaming to an
energy conservation action plan), and in EU product policies, such
as Ecodesign and labelling directives, public procurement
In the coming revision of the Energy Efficiency/Conservation Action
Plan, this would include:
- The energy
efficiency targets are supplemented with energy consumption targets.
It would not be constructive to give up the current 20% energy
but it should be supplemented with national energy consumption targets. These
targets must be based on targets for decoupling the still expected economic
growth from energy service demand, acknowledging that size of transport,
houses etc. does not have to grow with the expected economic growth.
targets will be inflated and thus useless.
- That energy
efficiency information is replaced with energy conservation information,
its basis in the real needs and desires of consumers,
in addition to
current information on how the most energy efficiency can fulfill their
energy service demands
- That product policies
are changed from promoting energy efficiency mostly in the use phase
to promoting energy conservation
in a life-cycle
- Higher taxation
on energy, including energy used for aviation and holidays
of taxation including tax breaks, to make the tax systems promote
- Promotion of policies
for reducing transport by better location of functions
- That all these
policies are included in the coming National Energy Efficiency (or
maybe Conservation) Action Plans, made
for the Energy
All these proposal are of course additional to the necessary increased
actions for energy efficiency in the coming energy efficiency/conservation
to energy efficiency policies
to EU Policy (main)