The only quick-fix to Europe’s energy price crisis is saving energy

(EurActiv, 6 Oct 2021) Faced with rising energy prices, the only thing Europe can quickly do to prevent a potentially difficult winter is to actively promote energy conservation in both the residential and industrial sectors, write Simone Tagliapietra and Georg Zachmann.

Simone Tagliapietra and Georg Zachmann are senior fellows at Bruegel, the Brussels-based economic think tank.

Faced with spiralling energy prices, European governments are trying to shield vulnerable households and small businesses with tax cuts, price caps or rebates.

These temporary government interventions are designed to protect the most vulnerable households from the energy price spikes and ensure that the ongoing economic recovery is not derailed by the shock.

However, should the supply crisis continue to worsen or winter temperatures dip lower than usual, then the problem will not be one of consumers paying high prices but inadequacy of energy supply. If, as a consequence of a worsening imbalance, wholesale prices increase further, energy subsidies in some countries will become unsustainable for public finances.

The only way out of this dilemma is by relaxing the energy supply-demand balance. But, on the supply side, there is not much Europe can do. Possible short-term solutions such as giving in to (alleged) Russian demands to open the taps on natural gas or allowing German nuclear power plants to continue running past their 2021 phasing out, will undermine confidence in the stability of energy policy commitments – increasing cost of the massive future investments that Europe needs for its energy transition.

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EurActiv, 6 Oct 2021: The only quick-fix to Europe’s energy price crisis is saving energy