From cold showers to pedal-powered cinemas: How the energy crisis is impacting everyday life in Europe


Australia’s east coast is in the midst of an energy crisis, with a recent report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission stating the troubled situation – marked by soaring electricity bills – is likely to continue until at least the winter of 2023.People in affected areas have been asked to reduce energy consumption during peak periods.But the challenges being faced in Australia are nothing compared to those unfolding in Europe.Paris is about to switch off the lights on the Eiffel Tower, Milan has turned off public fountains, and cinema-goers in Warsaw are pedalling bikes to generate electricity so the show can go on.Here’s a snapshot of what’s happening in Europe and why.Why is Europe experiencing an energy crisis?In response to the sanctions imposed on it by Western countries, Russia has cut the amount of gas it sends to Europe, sending global prices soaring.”Problems with gas supply arose because of the sanctions imposed on our country by Western states, including Germany and Britain,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call on 5 September.When asked if the supply would resume if sanctions were eased, Mr Peskov replied: “Definitely.”Due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine – which Russian President Vladimir Putin calls “a special military operation” – Western nations are unlikely to lift those sanctions, meaning the energy crisis will continue in Europe.Under President Vladimir Putin’s leadership, Russia has curtailed the gas supply to European countries. Source: AFP / Sergei Guneyev / Sputnik/ Getty ImagesAustralian National University professor John Blaxland said this is Russia’s way of testing the West’s resilience.”The effects of the cut off of oil and gas will affect the people in Europe the most,” he told SBS News.”And [Putin is] banking on their morale being sapped by enduring a bitter and cold winter without heating.”As a result of curtailed gas supplies, many European governments are considering scheduled power outages.Paris to switch off the Eiffel Tower’s lightsThe City of Light is about to lose some of its shine.Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Tuesday announced the Eiffel Tower’s flashing lights will be switched off each day at 11.45pm instead of 1am.The lights of the Eiffel Tower in Paris will be switched off at 11.45pm instead of 1am. Credit: Chesnot / Getty ImagesThe change will come into effect from 21 September.Jean-François Martins – the head of the company that manages the tower – said the move is “an eminently symbolic gesture”, orchestrated to raise awareness about the worsening energy crisis in Europe and beyond, and inspire people to save energy where they can.Warsaw asks moviegoers to pedal bikes to generate powerAs energy prices soar, an outdoor cinema in Warsaw, Poland, has resorted to asking moviegoers to pedal bikes to generate at least 50 per cent of the power required to screen the movie.Services company Impel is running a number of initiatives in Polish cities this summer in order to inspire people to come up with more sustainable ways of living. The outdoor cinema initiative in Warsaw’s central Pole Mokotowskie park is part of Impel’s series. About half a dozen bikes have been plugged into a generator in order to generate power to run the cinema.Hanover turns off heating for showersIn an attempt to save energy, Hanover – a city in Germany’s north – has turned off the mechanism that provides hot water for washing hands in the city’s public buildings.Hot water supplies have also been cut to showers at swimming pools, sports halls, and gyms.People are having to make adjustments in some other ways, too.For instance, nightly light displays on most public buildings have been scrapped, with the city of Hanover also banning use of portable air-conditioners, heaters and radiators.Amsterdam makes swimming pools one degree colderIf swimmers frequenting municipal-run pools in Amsterdam are finding the water to be a bit colder, it’s because it is.According to NH Nieuws, the local administration has decided to reduce the heating mechanism in the swimming pools by one degree Celsius in order to save costs in the face of rising energy bills.”In order to secure the future and not that we will be confronted with huge price increases at the end, both on the gas and on the ticket, we are now lowering the temperature as a precaution,” Marco van der Horst of De Mirandabad leisure centre in Amsterdam told the North Holland public broadcaster.Milan turns off public fountainsThe Lombardy region in Italy has announced a state of emergency and turned off about 50 public fountains in Milan, in a desperate bid to keep energy bills in control.The ruling does not, however, apply to fountains that provide drinking water to the city’s people or those that host fish or plant life.Other energy-saving measures are being observed, too, with residents being urged by the government to not set their air conditioning units below 26 degrees Celsius.Many of Milan’s public fountains will be turned off in a bid to keep soaring energy costs under control. Source: AFP / Filippo Monteforte / Getty ImagesMadrid imposes strict air-conditioning restrictionsBefore the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, the European Union sourced 40 per cent of its natural gas from Russia.But Russia has shut the key Nord Stream 1 pipeline twice in recent months.The pain of the resulting rise in energy prices is being keenly felt in the Spanish capital of Madrid , where the government has asked residents to set their thermostats no lower than 27 degrees Celsius.The news came just as outside temperatures were soaring, with Madrid experiencing highs of around 40 degrees Celsius during the peak of the northern summer.Iconic Belgian brewer to halt productionFor the first time in more than a century, iconic Belgian brewer, Brewery Huyghe, is facing the possibility of halting production.The brewer of Delirium Tremens beer told the Strait Times that as temperatures in Europe drop and households require heating, business owners may be forced to make some difficult choices.”I have enough CO2 to last me until Tuesday [20 September],” Alain De Laet, owner of the family-run company, told the Singapore-based newspaper.”I may need to stop production until I find a plan B, which would be the first time since 1906,” he said.