At MEED’s Kuwait Energy & Efficiency Conference held on 2-3 June, the message coming from the speakers was crystal clear: use less energy.

Consuming less oil in Kuwait is easier said than done. Kuwaitis view cheap energy, whether it is gasoline or utilities, as a right and as a means of sharing in the country’s oil wealth. The problem is that somebody somewhere has to pay for cheap gasoline and cheap electricity. And the people paying for it, of course, are the Kuwaitis themselves.

When energy is so cheap, it is all too easy to drive a big car or leave the air conditioning on the lowest setting. This has led to astonishing profligacy in Kuwait as in the wider Middle East.

Kuwait currently burns 350,000 barrels a day (b/d) of crude for domestic use, mainly for power generation. By 2030, this could rise to 800,000-900,000 b/d. At present, the country produces about 2.5 million b/d.

This is an alarming statistic, not least because Kuwait has no other viable industry in place outside of hydrocarbons and does not look like developing any either.

However, the only way to stop excessive energy use is to start charging more for it. After the Arab Uprisings, there are few governments in the region that have the nerve to even contemplate such a step.

This leaves Kuwait in a position where it knows it has to change, but the solution is unpalatable to most of the population.

Educating the young is the first step, as well as a huge publicity campaign highlighting the consequences for the next generation that wasting Kuwait’s only natural resource brings. Guilt can be an extremely effective tool.