Families around the Netherlands turn down the thermostat to save on heating bills

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has resulted in rising energy prices throughout the European Union, since not more Russian gas is being supplied. Several European nations have taken steps to reduce gas usage, including lowering temperatures in public buildings. Families in the Netherlands have responded to the energy crisis and resultant rising bills by drastically lowering their energy use at home. According to Eneco, the second-largest energy company in the Netherlands, individual households consumed 25 percent less gas in September than in the same month last year.

Substantial numbers of households are setting their thermostats 1 to 2°C lower than in prior years, according to Eneco. The company based its conclusions on data gathered from approximately 230,000 smart thermostats that provide the energy company with real-time household consumption information.

Statistics Netherlands (CBS) numbers regarding national energy use in the first months of 2022 also show that Dutch households responded to the energy crisis and increase in energy prices by reducing consumption. In the first part of 2022, Dutch households used approximately 16 percent less energy than in the years before, with at least half of that decrease attributable to lower demand.

According to a survey conducted by Kieskompas, at least 70% of the population is consciously taking shorter showers to save on gas bills. More than 85% of people over 65 have joined the quick-shower brigade. Taking shorter showers is actually a solid energy bill-lowering technique, according to Marlon Mintjes of Milieu Centraal, an organization that provides consumers with information about sustainability. Showering for five instead of nine minutes daily can save one person €190 per year. A low-flow showerhead can add an additional €70 in savings.

The decrease in gas use due to financial constraints mirrors what experts have long predicted would happen in the face of high prices. “Due to the extremely high gas prices, it’s currently simply not affordable for many people to use the same amount of gas,” says Thijs Bouman, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Psychology at Groningen University.

In response to the energy crisis, the Dutch government issued new operating procedures designed to lower energy use in public buildings. Government buildings throughout the nation are now heated to 19°C instead of 21°C. During the summer, public buildings are to be cooled to 25°C, 2°C degrees warmer than normal. More than 90 of the 115 government buildings covered by the new regulations are in compliance, having already adjusted their thermostats to reflect the new guidance.

With little chance of a resolution to the energy crisis on the near horizon, Dutch leaders announced the creation of an energy subsidy of €190 available for November and December. All energy consumers in the Netherlands are eligible to receive the payments, which will be administered by energy companies. Starting in January 2023, all gas and electricity sold to individual Dutch consumers will be subject to a price cap of € 1.45 per m3 for gas and € 0.40 per kWh for electricity. The price cap, however, applies only to the first 1,200 m3 of gas and 2,900 kWh of electricity usage. The average Dutch household used 1,200 m3 of gas and 2.460 kWh of electricity in 2021.

It’s yet to be seen if consumers will respond to the price cap by reverting to old usage patterns or if most will continue to consciously limit their gas consumption. “What you often see with financial incentives is that they remain as long as that incentive is there. The question is, therefore, whether the decline will remain as strong when gas becomes cheaper again,” says Bouman.

The Netherlands isn’t the only nation facing rising energy costs. High energy prices have also hit the United Kingdom. The increasingly popular Don’t Pay UK movement urges people to simply not pay their energy bills, as gas and oil companies post record profits while inflation and rising energy prices continue to eat away at household purchasing power. In other countries, such as Italy, similar movements have arisen. The Dutch government hopes, however, that its current measures will suffice in order to lessen the cost-of-living crisis in the country.

Written by Lorre Luther