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Municipalities: Energy saving regulations: Hardly any controls, no penalties

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It is darker at night in the cities, in swimming pools and in many workplaces it stays cooler: the federal government has reacted to the energy crisis with savings targets. Do the municipalities follow the rules?

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According to their own statements, cities and municipalities in Germany benefit noticeably from the federal energy saving regulations. The specifications, for example for heating in public buildings, for hot water supply and for illuminating monuments, have been implemented “very comprehensively” and in a variety of ways, said the deputy for urban development and the environment at the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, Bernd Düsterdiek, the German Press Agency . Potential savings of around 10 to 20 percent can be assumed. This also benefits local government budgets.

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The defaults

According to the ordinance on short-term energy saving measures that has been in force since September 1 of last year, the maximum room temperature in public workplaces should be reduced to 19 degrees. Corridors and other areas where people are not permanently present should no longer be heated. As a rule, there should no longer be hot water for washing hands, and buildings, monuments and advertising spaces should no longer be illuminated at certain times.

After the turn of the year, the cabinet had decided to extend the guidelines, which were initially limited to the end of February, until April 15. The Federal Council still has to agree to this and has the topic on the agenda for February 10th. Other medium-term measures, such as an obligation to optimize building heating systems, have been in effect for two years since October 1 of last year. The government had issued the rules out of concern about energy shortages. The trigger was the lack of Russian gas supplies.

The implementation

A dpa survey in major German cities showed that the local authorities are in the process of implementation and in some cases also see significant energy savings. For example, Frankfurt is assuming energy savings of five to ten percent for municipal properties. The city is also switching to LED lighting, has been dimming more than half of its approximately 60,000 lanterns between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. for years, and heats rooms, corridors and stairwells in public buildings and bathrooms less. The employees were asked to submit further ideas, said a spokeswoman.

It was also getting darker in Stuttgart, and heating energy was saved, as the city explained. She expects savings in the single-digit percentage range for municipal buildings. In Düsseldorf, around 8,000 gas lanterns in the city area have been switched off between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. since mid-October last year.

According to the city, the gradual switching off of the lighting in public buildings, bridges, monuments and fountains, which was implemented last summer, will save energy in Munich. The city of Nuremberg put their energy savings – depending on use – at 10 to 30 percent.

Hardly any controls and no penalties

Because the federal government has neither defined responsibilities nor sanctions in the ordinances, the cities do not see themselves as obliged to check or punish violations. “We assume that the employees are responsible and understand and implement the measures,” said a city spokeswoman in Frankfurt. There are no controls for compliance with the requirements, at most “here and there a warning from the department head, for example, but based on our previous experience and feedback, the employees are pulling along.”

The situation in Hamburg is similar. It is assumed that the regulations “are observed on one’s own responsibility”, according to the environmental authority of the Hanseatic city. In the past few months, traders have exchanged views on the ordinance who are aware “that everyone must make a solidarity contribution to saving energy and that everyone involved also acts in their own interest if they save energy.”

Düsseldorf also pointed out that the federal government has so far refrained from threatening fines for violations of the regulation – which is why it is “helped to apply elsewhere”, it said – for example by aligning its own savings measures with their goals. And with a view to the specifications for advertising systems, Munich assumes that the regulations are “more of an appeal to the citizens”.

The costs

According to Düsterdiek, the annual electricity and heating costs for local authorities in Germany are likely to have at least doubled from around five billion euros to around 10 to 15 billion euros as a result of the energy crisis. Around 180,000 municipal buildings across Germany are affected by the savings targets – from the town hall to the library, albeit to different extents.

In addition, there would be around two million municipal apartments. The savings varied in individual areas, said Düsterdiek. Lighting is the biggest consumer of electricity. Municipalities that have already switched to LED could reduce electricity consumption in this area by 70 to 80 percent.

What’s next?

The saving effects should not fizzle out once the regulations have expired. Gas consumption in Germany is currently below the consumption of the previous year, and electricity consumption in Germany also fell significantly last autumn, said a spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of Economics. “Our goal is to perpetuate this development and reduce gas consumption in Germany overall. This requires sustained and effective efforts to save energy.”

An important component is the constant monitoring of consumption trends by the Federal Network Agency. Düsterdiek from the German Association of Towns and Municipalities also said that they welcomed the planned extension of the regulation until mid-April. “We support that because we are still in a fragile situation.”

Source: Stern

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