Fearing Russia could cut natural gas supplies, the head of Germany’s energy regulator on Saturday called on residents to save energy and prepare for winter when consumption will rise.
Federal Grid Agency Chairman Klaus Mueller has urged home and apartment owners to have their gas boilers and radiators checked and adjusted to maximize their efficiency.
“Maintenance can reduce gas consumption by 10-15%,” he told Funke Mediengruppe, a German newspaper and magazine publisher.
Mueller said residents and homeowners should use the 12 weeks before cold weather sets in to prepare. He said families should start thinking now “whether every room should be set to its usual winter temperature – or whether some rooms might be a bit colder”.
The call came after Russia cut gas flows to Germany, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia earlier this month as European Union countries scramble to fill storage facilities with the fuel used to generate electricity, the electrical industry and to heat homes in winter.
A container is decorated with a map showing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which was to deliver Russian gas to European households, in the Lubmin industrial park in northeastern Germany on March 1, 2022.
John Macdougall | AFP | Getty Images
Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom has blamed a technical problem on the reduction of natural gas flowing through Nord Stream 1, a gas pipeline that crosses the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
The company said equipment refurbished in Canada was stuck there due to Western sanctions over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
German leaders dismissed that explanation and called the cuts a political move in reaction to European Union sanctions against Russia after the invasion of Ukraine.
Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck, who is also Germany’s economy and climate minister and responsible for energy, has warned that a “blockage” of the pipeline is possible from July 11, when maintenance work regular should start. In previous summers, work caused Nord Stream 1 to shut down for around 10 days, he said.
The question is whether the upcoming scheduled maintenance of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline will turn into “longer political maintenance,” said the energy regulator’s Mueller.
If the flow of gas from Russia is “to be reduced for a longer period, we will have to talk more seriously about savings”, he said.
According to Mueller, in the event of a gas supply interruption, private households would be particularly protected, as would hospitals or nursing homes.
“I can promise that we will do everything possible to prevent private households from being left without gas,” he said, adding: “We have learned from the coronavirus crisis that we should not make promises if we’re not quite sure we can hold them.”
He said his agency “does not see a scenario in which there is no more gas coming into Germany at all.”
Also on Saturday, German chemicals and consumer goods company Henkel said it was considering encouraging its employees to work from home in the winter in response to a possible supply shortage.
“We could then significantly reduce the temperature in the offices, while our employees could heat their homes to the normal extent,” Henkel CEO Carsten Knobel told the Rheinische Post daily.
The Hamburg state government‘s environment senator also expressed concern and said he could not rule out that the northern German city would have to limit hot water for private households in the event gas shortage.
“In the event of a severe gas shortage, hot water could only be available at certain times of the day,” Jens Kerstan told the weekly Welt am Sonntag.
Earlier this month, Economy Minister Habeck activated the second phase of Germany’s three-stage emergency plan for natural gas supplies, warning that Europe’s biggest economy was facing to a “crisis” and that the storage objectives for the winter were threatened.