Commission’s plan to save gas needs stronger social measures

The European Commission presented today its plan to reduce European gas demand  by 15% from 1 August to 31 March 2023.

ETUC agrees that reducing energy consumption and encouraging energy savings is the most effective short term answer to the current emergency. Anticipating the challenges ahead and increasing coordination between Member States is also positive.

When it comes to households, campaigning to increase energy savings is important, but not sufficient. It is not always possible for households to further reduce their energy consumption, especially low income and energy poor consumers who are already suffering from the rising prices and are at the limits of what they can save. Campaigns need to be combined with initiatives and investments to rapidly increase energy efficiency, notably in buildings, with a strong focus on most vulnerable.

ETUC also calls policy makers to agree on additional short term measures to protect those households who are affected by energy price inflation including a ban on disconnections and a cap on energy prices.

ETUC insists that substituting  gas by switching to other fuels and domestic productions, might be necessary in the short term but must be temporary and should not derail the EU’s climate targets. The rapid deployment of renewables should remain the top priority and any decision to switch to fossil fuels should be carefully assessed to remain compatible with the European Green Deal objectives.

Companies and workers are already affected by the high energy prices. ETUC regrets that the Commission’s Communication does not include more measures to support the world of work ahead of further impacts. In case of gas shortages or skyrocketing energy prices forcing companies to reduce or stop their activities, the EU should be ready to reactivate solidarity mechanisms (like SURE) to support short time work schemes and temporarily laid-off workers. The ETUC welcomes the Commission’s proposal to allow for more flexibility when it comes to state aid supporting undertakings in difficulty due to gas shortages or higher energy costs but aid should be conditional on strong social and environmental commitments. The EU must ensure that next winter is safe also for workers.

Commenting on the Communication, Ludovic Voet, ETUC Confederal Secretary said:

  • “We welcome the strong focus on the need to reduce energy consumption and to save energy. But this alone is not sufficient, we also need to rapidly increase the efficiency of buildings along with short term measures to support low income and the energy poor.”
  • “Temporarily switching to fossil fuel might be necessary in the short term but we need to be careful that this does not derail EU  climate targets. The EU also needs to be careful not to replace its energy dependence on one autocratic regime with another. Strong social, environmental and democratic safeguards should be attached to new energy contracts with third countries.”
  • “The current energy crisis has a huge impact on workers and companies. They also need to be supported. The plan presented by the Commission today lacks a solidarity mechanism like SURE to support short time work schemes and workers temporarily laid-off due to high energy prices or gas shortages.”

For more details about ETUC recommendations in light of the energy price crisis, click here

Photo credit: Mike Benna