Frankfurt, Germany: Germany approached natural gas rations on Thursday as Russia raised its alert level under an emergency plan after cutting its supply to the country. “Gas is now a rare commodity in Germany,” Minister of Economy Robert Habeck told reporters at a press conference.
Russia was using gas “as a weapon” against Germany in retaliation for Western support for Ukraine after the invasion of Moscow, Habeck said with the aim of “destroying” European integration. However, the Kremlin rejected Germany’s proposal that there was a political motive behind the “strange” supply limits.
Germany, like many other European countries, relies heavily on Russia’s energy imports to meet its needs. Triggering an “alarm” level (the second of three steps under an emergency plan) brings Germany one step closer to the final stage where gas distribution can be seen in Europe’s top economies. The rise in levels reflects a “significant deterioration in gas supply conditions,” Habeck said. “If you don’t do anything now, things will get worse,” Habeck said.
Russia’s energy giant Gazprom last week blamed new restrictions on repair delays by cutting supply to Germany by 60% via the Nord Stream pipeline. Germany has rejected the technical legitimacy provided by Gazprom and instead calls this move a “political decision.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that the supply decision “has no double meaning.”
“Our German partners are familiar with the technical service cycle of the pipeline,” he said. “It’s strange to call it politics.” In recent weeks, Gazprom has stopped shipping to many European countries, including Poland, Bulgaria, Finland and the Netherlands.
According to Habeck, gas supplies to Europe’s largest economy were “safe,” but action was still needed to prepare for the coming winter. To mitigate the risks of supply cuts, the government has mandated that gas storage facilities be filled up to 90% by early December.
Currently, stores in this country are just under 60%, above the previous year’s average level. However, unless exports to other countries are restricted, it will be difficult to reach the target. This can be a difficult move within Europe. Germany could face a serious gas shortage in February 2023 if these return to pre-suppression levels. Further supply cuts can make the situation worse.
The German government expects the supply to be shut down between July 11th and July 25th due to the annual maintenance of the Nord Stream pipeline. If delivery is not resumed after the service period, Germany may soon face a gas shortage in “mid-December”.
Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Germany has succeeded in reducing its share of natural gas supplied by Russia from 55 percent to about 35 percent. The government has found a new source, accelerated plans to import gas in the form of LNG at sea, and secured € 15 billion ($ 15.8 billion) to buy gas to fill storage facilities.
Germany has also decided to restart a suspended coal-fired power plant to remove the burden of power generation from gas. In contrast, the government has avoided calls to extend the life of nuclear power plants.
On Wednesday, extending the use of the final reactor, which will be removed from the grid at the end of the year, was “not an option.” Habeck said on Thursday that Germany needed to figure out what the “potential for energy savings” was. After Germany launched a campaign to encourage fuel savings, he said, households could “make a difference” by saving energy, and industry could contribute even more. – AFP