Energy crisis

“From January to March, the situation will be difficult”

Minister for energy, Claude Turmes, will launch a vast awareness campaign in September aimed at municipalities, public administrations, companies and the population to reduce the country's energy consumption by 15% as of this winter. (Photo: Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne/Archives)

Minister for energy, Claude Turmes, will launch a vast awareness campaign in September aimed at municipalities, public administrations, companies and the population to reduce the country's energy consumption by 15% as of this winter. (Photo: Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne/Archives)

While Europe has decided to reduce its energy consumption to cope with the presence of a gas shortage this winter, energy minister Claude Turmes (déi Gréng), is preparing a large awareness campaign to encourage Luxembourg's economic actors to make a major effort to be more energy efficient.

Luxembourg, like the rest of Europe, will have to reduce its energy consumption this winter. Have you identified where it will be possible to do so?

Claude TurmesClaude Turmes: We have obviously looked at where the potential for reducing energy consumption lies. A good part of this reduction will come from industry, either through optimisation processes or by migrating to another energy source. It is important to understand that from January to March the situation will be difficult. That is to say, when the winter is coldest and gas stocks are likely to be lower but also in February and March when the consumption of buildings will also be important.

In addition to the industrial sector, all homes and large bank buildings will also have to reduce their consumption. And if I want to be credible in the eyes of the financial centre and the public, the public sector must set a good example.

So what are you going to do to ensure that the state, ministries and administrations reduce their energy consumption this winter?

Together with François BauschFrançois Bausch, deputy prime minister, defence and transport minister, an awareness campaign will be launched for public buildings. The municipalities are in the process of receiving a circular with recommendations to follow and a workshop for the municipalities will be organised in September. The public sector will do what they have to do to reduce their energy consumption this winter. One of the first measures to be taken, which is quite effective, is to check the heating installations and ensure that they are properly adjusted.

I think that having an electric car does not mean that you have to drive twice as much.
Claude Turmes

Claude TurmesMinister for Energy and Minister for Spatial Planning

What about households?

For private individuals, the main energy consumption is for heating and hot water. Here too, an awareness campaign will begin in September to encourage people to heat their rooms to the right temperature and in moderation, and to have their gas and oil boilers checked to ensure that they are properly adjusted. The second area of consumption is hot water. You can take a 3-minute shower and you can take a 30-minute shower. But we must understand that we are facing two winters that will be tense in terms of energy supply because of the war that Putin is waging against us. Everyone can be more moderate in their consumption of hot water, as this will also reduce their energy bill.

But the individual who has invested in solar panels or an electric car, can tell himself that he has already made efforts to reduce energy consumption, so why should he make any more?

I don't think having an electric car means you have to drive twice as much. This summer shows that we have a climate emergency and the electric car is better than the fossil fuel car. The best thing is not to drive an electric car but to use public transport and to cycle. I think the most important thing is to be a responsible citizen.

So let's turn to industry. They will have to make the greatest effort. Processes are often already optimised and wasting energy is not a habit for manufacturers. How will they manage to reduce their energy consumption in the space of a few months?

We are taking a proactive approach and we recently had discussions with Fedil. We are looking at what we can do, particularly with regard to the 30 most energy-intensive industries in the country. For the moment, the news is good because ArcelorMittal will be able to reduce its consumption by 15%, Goodyear will also be able to reduce its consumption, Guardian is shut down and will probably not start up again this winter. We have identified potential reductions, but we can't put this reduction on industry alone. I repeat: we need a collective effort.

For 35 years we have been finding excuses not to move towards energy efficiency and renewable energies.
Claude Turmes

Claude TurmesMinister for Energy and Minister for Spatial Planning

Otherwise, industry will have to implement a load shedding plan. Fedil does not seem happy to have to work on such a plan and the possibility of factories being deprived of energy overnight?

No one is happy to implement a load shedding plan, which is the solution when there is no other option. If energy consumption, especially gas, is reduced by 15%, there will be no shortage, and therefore no load shedding plan.

Some may also say that, given the size of the country, Luxembourg's efforts will have little impact on reducing energy consumption on a European scale.

Yes, but this attitude leads nowhere. Luxembourg is small compared to Europe and Europe is small compared to China. For 35 years we have been finding excuses not to move towards energy efficiency and renewable energies. Today we have no more excuses. We are faced with a real emergency, particularly in terms of climate change, as well as exploding prices. All the more so as there are alternatives. We can install heat pumps, there is aid for energy renovation. We have put in place an efficient and free public transport system. I think that in this country, there are really no more arguments for not being virtuous.

Yet, for the time being, the possibility of an energy shortage in winter does not seem to worry economic actors, while in France, Spain, Italy and Germany, large companies and retailers have announced the implementation of measures to reduce their consumption this winter. Isn't this disappointing?

There is a geographical factor to consider. Italy and Spain are countries where air conditioning plays a huge role because of the heat, which is higher than here. The air-conditioning systems run and consume a lot of electricity, and therefore a lot of gas, and this does not allow the gas stocks to be refilled in summer, which is a problem. In the summer, we don't consume much gas, because we don't heat and a large proportion of our citizens go on holiday. So the important time for us is in September and November. There is absolutely no point in launching an awareness-raising campaign now, when everyone's head is elsewhere.

We are the country that gives the highest subsidies for energy renovation. For the financially weakest people, we subsidise up to 100% of the costs of installing a heat pump or new windows.
Claude Turmes

Claude TurmesMinister for Energy and Minister for Spatial Planning

But companies do not seem to be taking the measure of the magnitude of the effort required.

The good news is that the UEL and its president, Michel ReckingerMichel Reckinger, have announced that they want to work on voluntary measures on the part of their members, including large-scale distribution and supermarkets.

Energy renovation is one of the solutions for reducing energy consumption. But it is expensive. Shouldn't we speed up the support a bit more in this area?

It is true that it is sometimes difficult, but we are trying to improve and facilitate the existing system. We have reformed and simplified the Klimabonus administratively. We are the country that gives the highest aid for energy renovation. For the financially weakest people, we subsidise up to 100% of the costs of installing a heat pump or new windows. On the other hand, we have given a more important role to craftsmen.

This is a combination of things that is starting to produce results. We can already see that people are becoming more and more aware of the urgency of the climate, especially when they see their energy bills rising. The Klima-Agency has seen the number of requests for advice double, and even triple. Craftsmen are becoming better trained and with our ambitious climate objectives, they have at least 30 years of work ahead of them. There is a real sense that society is becoming aware of the situation, but this is also the result of the implementation of our policy strategy.

In Belgium and Germany, ecologists have accepted a return to nuclear power to help cope with the coming energy crisis and help the ecological transition. Is this also your case? Are you a bit more in favour of nuclear energy?

We are living in a completely absurd period. French nuclear power has never been so bad, with 27 of the 54 reactors shut down because there is not enough water to cool them and because 12 to 15 of these reactors have a major corrosion problem. The situation is absurd, because Belgium has to restart its nuclear power because the French reactors are failing. Germany does not need to restart nuclear power for its domestic consumption, but because of the failure of the French nuclear power. I find it mind-boggling that the press in Europe writes about two reactors in Belgium and three potential reactors in Germany, but not a single article about the failing reactors in France.

French nuclear power is failing at the moment. France's nuclear policy has prevented the construction of between 15,000 and 20,000 megawatts of solar power, which we sorely need today. France has a lot of electric heating, and every winter neighbouring countries have to save it from blackout. This is a mind-boggling situation. I would also like to draw attention to the fact that nuclear safety authority has decided to compromise on the safety of certain reactors in order to allow them to return to the French network this winter. This leaves me rather sceptical.

This is not an ideological issue, but a systemic problem at the heart of the French nuclear network, like the corrosion problem. The nuclear promises of the French network do not hold water. When Emmanuel Macron says he wants to build 6x2 new reactors to save the climate and to lower the energy bills of his citizens, he promises something for 2038, 2040 and 2042. But this is a lie, because it means that they will do nothing for 15 years. France's policy is lukewarm on renewables, but hot on nuclear.

Germany's nuclear power is likely to be revived, but the country will also accelerate the deployment of solar and offshore wind power. Germany is suffering from energy flu due to Russian blackmail and the policies of former German governments, but France has a cancer. Once again, France will have to be saved for all the winters to come, because the promise of French nuclear power has not been kept. But they prefer to talk about two nuclear reactors in Belgium.

Coming back to Luxembourg, a study by Stanford University estimates the investment needed to run the country on 100% renewable energy at €14bn. Is this feasible?

This study is very macro. It is quite well done and it takes into account the latest data on the subject. But on Europe, the study makes the following mistake: it considers each European country as an island, whereas our policy in Europe is to build together a 100% renewable space. This is what we are trying to build in Luxembourg, where our energy and economic optimum is not 100% autonomy on the island of Luxembourg, but 100% renewable energy in Western Europe by making 40% to 50% of our production a mix between solar, wind on land and biomass in Luxembourg, and by cooperating with, for example, Denmark on large wind turbines in the North Sea.

These will also be a good solution for European countries. This integrated and cross-border system is much cheaper than going towards a system with 100% renewable autonomy per European country. In 2030, in Western Europe, we will be at 70% renewable energy, Germany will be at 80%. If we look at France and the Benelux countries, we will reach 70% green electricity by 2030, and by 2035 we will be close to 100% thanks to the cross-border infrastructure.

This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.