Saving energy: Municipalities in crisis mode

Climate Alliance members lead the way with ambitious energy savings measures

Everyone is affected, everyone is forced to act – the energy crisis concerns us all. Once again, cities and towns from across Europe are finding themselves in a crisis and are being asked to take action with concrete measures. In the past months, many Climate Alliance members have shown leadership and initiated specific energy savings measures. The three cities of Lüneburg (DE), Cologne (DE) and Feldkirch (AT) are demonstrating how to engage relevant stakeholders in the design and implementation of these measures.

Lüneburg (DE) focuses on energy efficiency and teamwork

For years, Lüneburg has placed a special focus on energy efficiency, be it in renovations, new builds or even city traffic lights. Building on this, the city has now initiated a number of further energy savings measures, such as reducing the room temperature in the administrative buildings, limiting hot water production and introducing a fixed heating period from October to April in combination with fixed heating times.

In addition to these internal administrative cost-saving measures, the Hanseatic City is involving relevant stakeholders to tackle the energy crisis. "The consequences of the Ukraine war with rising prices in many areas cannot be solved by the city administration alone. It is important to involve civil society and to find solutions for our Hanseatic city in close cooperation with all relevant actors," emphasises Florian Beye, Personal Assistant in the Office of the Lord Mayor of Lüneburg. The Lord Mayor, Claudia Kalisch, invited participants to a municipal conference at the end of August to develop solutions for two scenarios: sufficient energy with rising prices and rising prices with energy shortages. The approximately 250 ideas gathered were recorded in an interactive mind map, which the administration is currently evaluating as a basis for follow up. Through this exchange, the city’s resilience could also be increased. "The actors now know who can do what and are interconnected," comments Florian Beye. In addition, a central website will be set up to collect current information on the measures and key contacts.

Despite all the commitment, however, the city is also confronted with hurdles. The regulation of central heating in a historic building, for example, is not always easy. In terms of personnel, too, the city is reaching capacity limits due to the additional tasks resulting from the energy crisis. This makes it all the more important that all administrative staff work together towards a common goal.

Cologne (DE) raises awareness amongst citizens and administrators

As in many cities, the city of Cologne has also put together a package of measures to counter the energy crisis. In addition to regulations on room temperatures and street lighting, the city has also stopped the continuous illumination of representative buildings such as the Cologne Cathedral. To support these measures, Cologne is also involving both the city's own administrative staff and its citizens. Together with its energy company, RheinEnergie, the city is planning a campaign to better communicate energy savings tips to consumers. Cologne is also working with municipal staff, in particular, the maintenance supervisors of the administrative buildings, who are to be trained and act as multipliers. In addition to the implementation of further measures, the city plans to establish a crisis team in order to be able to react quickly and at short notice to the energy crisis throughout the autumn and winter months.

Feldkirch (AT) uses its own reporting platform and raises awareness

Feldkirch in Austria is proving that a city needn’t be large to make a difference. This 30,000 inhabitant city in Vorarlberg has taken a whole range of energy savings measures including the reduction of room temperatures, adjusted usage times for public buildings, the inspection of all ventilation and air conditioning systems and minimised lighting for both the holidays and generally in historic buildings. Similar to the City of Lüneburg, Feldkirch’s administration has found the reduction of room temperatures in various building types to be a challenge. The city is tackling this hurdle in close coordination with the municipal utilities and energy officers in order to create a tolerable indoor climate while still saving as much energy as possible.

Another important component of Feldkirch's energy savings strategy is to involve city employees and raise their awareness of energy savings at the workplace, for example by switching off standby devices or only switching on printers when necessary. With the help of an informational campaign in the staff newspaper and an internal city survey that gathers staff needs and suggestions, the administration wants to educate and convince employees of the measures taken. In addition, a voluntary energy lunch break was offered in which interested staff could talk about private and public energy savings measures as well as their own personal situations and well-being. This led to the idea of private energy guides so as to offer people an easily accessible way to discuss energy topics.

In order to further involve the citizens of Feldkirch, the city's own reporting platform, "Schau auf Feldkirch", is also being used. Through the local media, citizens are being called upon to submit their own ideas for saving energy on the platform," comments Christina Connert, Head of Feldkirch’s Environment, Energy and Climate Protection Department. "The first reports have already been received and are being actively integrated into the city's further plans.” Weekly energy savings tips are also being shared in the local newspaper, the Feldkircher Anzeiger. This gives everyone the chance to join in and make a contribution.

Lüneburg, Cologne and Feldkirch are just three of the countless examples of municipalities undertaking energy savings measures within the Climate Alliance network. Cities and towns from across Europe are proving once again how important the local level is in times of crisis. In the case of the energy crisis, the examples also show that classic energy savings measures are an important basis, but that a combination of these measures with local awareness raising and the involvement of relevant stakeholders is essential for success. Only together can we overcome the challenges ahead.

Are you implementing ambitious energy savings measures in your town or city that you would like to share with the network? Contact us at communications(at) and inspire other members with your example!

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written October 2022