Putin is using energy as a weapon. Russia’s war on Ukraine is being fought on the battlefields within Ukraine but also there is a wider psychological war being fought in Europe and beyond, to break support for and isolate Ukraine. And ultimately to blackmail Europe into dropping sanctions that have been imposed on Russia. The most immediate and greatest defence against this use of energy as a weapon is to reduce demand for energy.
The escalating rise in energy prices across the world is highlighting industries and business models that are energy and carbon intensive. There is a big overlap between energy literacy and carbon literacy. It is also highlighting our own personal / household energy dependency.
As part of living on One Tonne of carbon per year, I tried every trick in the book to reduce my energy use. For financial reasons (2015-2017) I had already done 2 winters in London without any heating source, so I was already primed. My former experience without or with little heating tells me now is the time to start building and practicing resilience to colder weather, to save energy. And more generally adjusting behaviour to save money (and carbon) Yes this is a double win.
My personal tips from lived experience
1.My first tip is keep the windows open at night as the night time temperature drops at this time of year. This is to help the body acclimatise to lower temperatures. I do it for as long as possible into the autumn; I call it luxury camping! Add blanket or extra duvet if required. The aim is to build up tolerance to cooler temperatures gradually. To avoid the kneejerk temptation to switch on the gas boiler in slightly cooler temperatures, when there is a manageable way to adjust without significant loss of comfort. Close the windows when it can no longer be tolerated. The closed windows will be your first line of adding warmth.
2. As temperatures drop in Autumn you may instinctively adjust your diet to keep warmer. In Summer I mostly eat fruit for breakfast and find porridge too warming. But a bowl of porridge is as the Ready Brek advert correctly pointed out, ‘central heating for kids’. And perfect for reducing the need for external heating. I also instinctively eat more nuts! Do as the squirrels do:) Eating foods that are cooling will not help your resilience against the cold. And may explain why some households have their thermostat set at a tropical 25C for ‘comfort’. Traditional stews and soups (comfort food) will warm and help the body to adjust. 18-19C is the recommended temperature for healthy adults.
3. To ward off a sluggish circulation, I exercise as much outside as possible in Autumn and Winter. Walking, cycling, swimming, running, dancing etc A bit of aerobic exercise generates enough warmth to keep you going. And just being outside when you can will also keep your body acclimatised. The endorphins are a very welcome side effect!
4. Have a thick heritage jumper, woollen socks and beanie ready to go when the temperature drops in the evening. Acting as your second line of defence against the cold.
5. Use Libraries, cafes and pubs or any other social or community space available to share energy use.
6. Alter flow / output on your combi condensing boiler. Instructions can be found here. Different boilers have different types of settings. Mine is an ATAG and I experimented with my plumber with the output and flow settings. Reductions were significant. But you can do it yourself on your own type of boiler with help from this website.
7. I often listen to podcasts under the duvet. Or meditate. There is a lot to think about right now!
8. Turn off every bit of energy you are not using. Sounds obvious but I found I needed to become more aware of this. The fridge needs to stay on. But I don’t have a freezer which doubles the energy use of chilling food.
9. 3-4 minute showers. Baths are energy intensive. Washing up is energy intensive so minimise it. Washing machines used carefully to maximise loads.- 30C and dried on line.
10. To minimise energy use whilst cooking – use low heat settings or keep the flame low. Use a lid on your cooking pot. A pressure cooker reduces cooking times significantly. A slow cooker uses minimal energy over a longer time period. Good for stews etc. Enjoy sharing food and warmth whilst socialising with friends and family. I heat water using an electric kettle before cooking.
11. If you have spare cash, insulate, insulate. insulate. Install solar. Install heatpumps. And if you can downsize. Moving closer to your most important family or friends.
12. Finally, Russia has increased its profits on exported oil by 40%. This profit is funding its war on Ukraine. Car journeys, flights and buying plastic stuff including plastic clothing, packaging and stuff you don’t need come from Russian oil. Your are directly increasing Putin’s profit by buying oil via energy intensive transport and its refined and manufactured products. I cycled in the last oil crisis in 1973 and I still cycle. Its cheap and fun! And of course I don’t fly. One of the most energy intensive things you can do. Additionally avoid buying flowers. food and other goods that are air-freighted. These are highly energy intensive. Out of season hot-housed flowers, fruit and vegetables are also energy intensive. Eat local, seasonal produce whenever possible.
‘The extra demand that you place on the grid is met entirely through additional fossil fuels because the renewables in your country will already be running at full capacity….this is true even in the countries where all electricity comes from renewables or nuclear, because adding to demand reduces the amount of electricity that those countries are able to export, thereby increasing the fossil fuel generation in other nations’ – Mike Berners-Lee