Germany’s economy minister has announced a new wave of emergency measures to reduce the country’s gas consumption after flows from Russia through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline resumed at reduced levels after a scheduled shutdown.
Robert Habeck said Russia’s gas supplies could not be relied upon and called on people to come together to save energy. The new measures include asking bosses to allow working from home wherever possible to allow heating systems to be switched off in large buildings, a legal obligation to get rid of inefficient heating systems and a ban on use gas to heat private swimming pools.
Fears that Russia would use the shutdown for maintenance work as a pretext to permanently shut off supply were unfounded, but experts said resuming around 40% of supplies would not prevent an energy crisis in Europe this winter.
Complicating efforts to present a united front against Russia by EU members, the Hungarian government appeared to act unilaterally on Thursday when its foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, visited Moscow to discuss the purchase of more gas.
“In order to ensure the security of Hungary’s energy supply, the government has decided to purchase an additional 700 million cubic meters of natural gas in addition to the quantities stipulated in the long-term contracts,” the party told the newspaper. Fidesz power in a statement on Facebook. .
Habeck said corridors and corridors in public buildings should remain unheated whenever possible and that chimney sweeps should check that a household’s heating systems are working as efficiently as possible.
The minister said he had no plans to introduce a ‘heat police’ to police households as he believed people could be counted on to act responsibly, but he said that Europe would need “considerable resistance”, and he expected the challenge to span two winters.
In Berlin and Brussels, Russia is believed to be deliberately cutting supplies in revenge for Western sanctions introduced in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
Gazprom has, in recent weeks, reduced flows to Germany by 60% via Nord Stream 1, citing the absence of a Siemens gas turbine, which was being repaired in Canada. A spokesperson for Germany’s economy ministry said on Wednesday there was “no technical justification” for cutting deliveries after maintenance work was completed.
Berlin has been anxiously awaiting completion of work since the July 11 shutdown, expecting the gas to be completely cut off or reduced. Experts have said an energy crisis in Europe is inevitable under the current circumstances.
The European Commission on Wednesday called on EU countries to reduce demand for natural gas by 15% for the foreseeable future in an attempt to increase winter gas stocks and overcome what the commission president , Ursula von der Leyen, called it “blackmail”. by Russia.
Member states have also been urged to give Brussels the power to introduce mandatory energy rationing, which would help prioritize supplies in case Russia completely cuts off gas to Europe.
Led by the IMF, warnings of a catastrophic impact on the European economy which could plunge certain countries into recession are increasing, starting with the closing of factories and in particular the restriction of heating in households. Significantly higher energy costs and consumer prices are already a reality, but are expected to get worse.
Habeck spoke of a “nightmare scenario” facing Europe, especially Germany, Europe’s biggest economy.
Habeck, who is coping with the crisis from his home, after contracting coronavirus, spoke of the measures he has taken to reduce his personal energy consumption, including taking shorter showers and turning off the lights, just like the German consumers and municipalities have been invited to do so. This is all part of a three-pronged contingency plan against the gas crisis that was triggered earlier this year.
The third and final part of the plan would be a dramatic step of intervening in the domestic market to clarify which industries received which level of supply.
Among the new measures Habeck announced Thursday, companies are banned from selling gas they have already stored under what he called a “use it or lose it” policy. His ministry will also activate a reserve of lignite-fired power plants to reduce gas consumption for power generation in just over two months, so that lignite-fired power plants can return to the electricity market, replacing natural gas power plants, he said.
His ministry also announced that Germany was to receive LNG as planned, via four floating gas terminals leased by the federal government, two of which should be operational by the end of the year.
Earlier this month, Habeck announced the takeover of heavily polluting coal-fired power plants, which had been mothballed. Germany has refrained from backtracking on its decision to halt nuclear power generation, which will be phased out by the end of the year, but the move has not been ruled out entirely.
Germany has rushed to diversify, including increasing its supplies of renewable energy, but Berlin continues to depend on Moscow for about a third of its supplies, while France depends on it for about a fifth.
German gas supply at storage facilities stood at 65% on Wednesday. The objective was to fill them to 90% at the beginning of November to spend the winter. Thursday, however, Klaus Müller, head of energy regulator Bundesnetzagentur, said targets were being revised upwards due to the urgency of the situation.
Russian media watchers say Vladimir Putin’s supporters rejoice that Moscow, by controlling Europe’s energy supply, has in fact held the continent hostage and contributed to social unrest, infighting and civil war. political uncertainty.
Earlier this week, at the height of what looked like a cat-and-mouse game, Moscow mocked Germany, saying supplies could flow through Nord Stream 2, a multibillion-dollar pipeline. euros completed and ready to operate to support Nord Stream. 1 which aimed to strengthen European energy security. Its operation was halted by the German government in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.