What Are Ruhr Municipalities Doing to Save Gas and Electricity?

September 26, 2022

Reading time: 4 min

Citizens are being asked to save energy, and so too is the industrial sector. The public sector is also helping save money and energy. Read on to learn what Ruhr valley municipalities are planning, and what they have already put into practice.

Reduce electricity and gas consumption by at least 20 percent – this appeal from the German federal government applies not just to private users but to towns and local authorities as well. After all, these bodies are responsible for public buildings like citizens’ centers and schools, for lighting on the streets and at public squares, for local public transport, and for the operation of leisure facilities such as swimming pools. It is therefore up to municipalities to find ways of using less energy without endangering the health and safety of their citizens or excessively limiting the services they offer.

In recent years, many towns have already introduced measures designed to reduce energy consumption – fitting public buildings with solar power equipment, for example, optimizing heating facilities or modifying lighting systems.

Lower Room Temperature in Public Buildings

In light of the current situation, many bodies have stepped up their energy-saving efforts and established in-house energy crisis units. Back in late June, the Deutscher Städtetag (Association of German Cities and Towns) drew up a list of short, medium, and long-term measures that municipalities can use to save gas and electricity.

As the heating season kicks in, temperature settings are being lowered in many municipalities in the Ruhr valley. Administrative offices, schools, and other public institutions are being heated less than in previous years. The city of Dortmund has already announced that from October 1, maximum heating temperature for offices will be 19 °C (66 °F), and for classrooms 20 °C (68 °F). A number of municipalities are also adjusting their heating times to match office and school hours – outside these regular hours, room temperature will be lowered to 17 °C (63 °F). Allowing the temperature to fall any lower would result in excessively high energy consumption later in order to bring the building temperature back up to the required level.

It’s Worth Saving – But Not at the Expense of Safety

The Deutscher Städtetag recommends that municipal employees work from home as much as possible. Though they will still be using electricity, this will eliminate travel costs. The city of Wesel calculates that if 120 employees work from home, nearly 10,000 kilometers a week can be saved in terms of distance traveled.

Lighting is another area with potential for savings: the district of Wesel, for example, is swapping many conventional lights for LED lighting. The city of Essen stopped illuminating large buildings back in August, including synagogues, the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, and the Grillo-Theater. The Städtetag’s catalogue of measures also includes switching off certain sets of traffic lights and limiting street lighting – where possible from a safety standpoint. However, the example of city illumination also highlights the limitations on opportunities for savings. Many towns have already reduced much of their lighting to a bare minimum, leaving little room for further cutbacks.

The pandemic has not made energy saving easier either. For example, plenty of power could be saved by restoring climate control systems in public buildings to pre-pandemic levels, or switching off mobile air purification units. Infection rates over the coming fall and winter months will determine whether or not this is possible.

Restrictions Affecting Swimming Pools and Christmas Markets

The leisure sector emerged early on as the first field that would be required to cut back on energy usage. This applies first and foremost to sports halls and swimming pools operated by municipalities, and many locations have already implemented such measures. WasserWelten Bochum, for example, have lowered the temperature in their pools by two degrees Celsius. According to the German Swimming Pool Construction Ordinance (Bäderbauverordnung), the lowest temperature allowed is 24 °C (75 °F) degrees.

In gym halls, too, the temperature may at least be turned down – here, in accordance with the requirements of statutory accident insurance, a temperature as low as 17 °C (63 °F) is allowed. In many towns, post-sport showers were already on a cold setting during the summer. However, these cutbacks cannot be fully implemented throughout the leisure sector. For some activities – for instance baby swimming, mother and child gymnastics, and sports for senior citizens – things simply cannot be allowed to get too cold. Municipalities with more than one pool might also close some of their facilities at times if the gas crunch gets worse.

The growing pressure to save energy might lead some municipalities to cancel events that are traditionally much anticipated by their citizens. For example, Bochumer Veranstaltungs-GmbH has already announced that they will not be putting on this year’s “Eissalon”, a giant ice rink in the Jahrhunderthalle in Bochum. On the other hand, many municipalities have yet to reach a final decision concerning their Christmas markets. In Dortmund, at least, the city has declared that the markets will go ahead. And the main attraction – the “world’s largest Christmas tree” – will be lit up as usual, having switched to LED lighting as early as 2018 to help protect the environment.