After Moscow slashed gas flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany by 60 percent last week, the country’s economy minister, Robert Habeck, said he hoped rationing wouldn’t be necessary to get through the coming winter, though couldn’t rule it out. But the boss of the German regulatory office for gas and other essential supplies warned such a measure would be inevitable if Russia goes ahead with further cuts.
Klaus Müller, President of the Federal Network Agency, warned: “If the storage facilities in Germany were one hundred percent full and we experienced an average winter, we would be able to supply ourselves for just 2.5 months if we went without Russian gas.
“Then, the storage facilities would be empty.”
Speaking on national broadcaster ZDF’s Maybrit Illner show, economist Monika Schnitzer echoed Mr Müller’s caims.
She said: “If [Russian President Vladimir] Putin gets serious and reduces the gas supply further, we will have to wrap up warm.”
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Their stark forecast came as Berlin raised the alarm over a “significant deterioration of the gas supply situation” in the country, which is highly reliant on Russian energy imports.
Russia’s state gas company Gazprom said last week’s slash was due to a delayed repair, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claiming there was “no hidden agenda”. But Germany dismissed the technical justification for the move, instead calling it a “political decision”.
The government on Thursday moved to activate the second phase of its three-stage gas emergency program, which takes the nation — Europe’s largest economy — indeed one step closer to rationing supplies to industry.
Stressing the goal of filling gas storage facilities to 90 percent by December won’t be achievable without further measures, the economy minister called on industry, households and public institutions to reduce their consumption as much as possible “so that we can get through the winter”.
However, Germany is not alone in its crisis.
Some 12 European Union members have so far been affected by Russian gas supply cuts, the bloc’s climate policy chief Frans Timmermans said.
The EU minister said: “Russia has weaponised energy, and we have seen further gas disruptions announced in recent days.
“All this is part of Russia’s strategy to undermine our unity.
“So the risk of full gas disruption is now more real than ever before.”
As fears over what the next winter could look like across the continent, some EU countries, including Germany and Austria are now turning to coal and oil-fired power stations so more gas can be diverted into storage for heating homes during the coldest season of the year.
Additional reporting Monika Pallenberg