“We must be prepared for Putin to keep on cutting off the gas supply,” said Habeck.
This strategy of repeatedly reducing the delivery quantity, keeping the price high and breaking down Europe’s solidarity is being resisted by Europe with great unity and speed, he explained. According to the agreement in the the member states aim to reduce their gas demand voluntarily by 15 percent from 1 August 2022 to 31 March 2023. The European Commission had made a proposal for this on 20 July. The Council Regulation also includes the possibility of activating a “Union Warning” for supply security. In this case, the reduction of the gas demand would become obligatory.
“We should try to get better at saving energy,” said Habeck, adding that private consumption could also be further reduced. Germany had already made good progress with the preparations, he said. “We will do everything to ensure that there will be no gas shortage. We have to cut down on use and create replacements,” the minister said. The new LNG terminals first have to be completed. Other capacities will also be brought onto the market by drawing on the coal reserve.
After maintenance work on the North Stream 1 pipeline, gas is now flowing through the North Stream 1 pipeline again as of 22 July. However, the Russian company Gazprom Export has announced that it will already significantly reduce gas deliveries again from 27 July, although there is no technical hindrance to a full capacity and Russia is subject to delivery obligations. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and the Federal Network Agency are observing the situation very closely.
On 22 July, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck announced in order to fill the gas storage tanks more quickly and save more energy. “We must strengthen our provisions for the winter,” said Habeck.
At the presentation of the planned measures, the Minister said that Russia had become an increasingly unreliable supplier, since technical issues were being politicised.
“We have made good progress, thanks in part to the participation of business and industry and society. We can build on this – and that is what we are doing now. The situation remains tense, which is why we are again increasing our efforts. The gas consumption must be further reduced and the storage tanks must be filled. We should work on this with united forces,” said Habeck. Widespread solidarity had helped our society to get through this time very well so far, he said. “We will need this solidarity for longer and will work to ensure that it continues to be upheld. We need patience,” the Minister emphasised, because both the coming winter and the next one would present Germany and Europe with major challenges.
The Federal Government is working intensively together with the countries of the European Union to become more independent from Russian energy supplies, and in particular gas supplies, and to secure the energy supply. Through a purchase programme, it has acquired 950 million cubic metres of natural gas and is freeing up 15 billion euros in order to fill the tanks. Constructing liquefied natural gas terminals is intended to help tap into alternative sources of supply for the short term.
The head of the Federal Network Agency, Klaus Müller, explained that the initially projected hourly values amounted to 40 percent, approximately the same level as before the maintenance work, but that the prognosis was extremely volatile. “We don’t know what the next few weeks will bring,” said Müller. The Federal Network Agency has calculated several scenarios. “We need further savings in order to avoid a gas shortage and get through the next two winters,” affirmed Müller.
The measures will further increase the filling of gas storage tanks, reduce natural gas consumption in electricity generation, and expand efficiency and savings measures. Habeck said that the Federal Government would implement the measures step by step in the coming weeks and after the summer break.
In order to ensure that the gas storage tanks are filled, the legally stipulated filling levels will be extended again, to reach 75 percent by 1 September 2022. This new interim goal should accelerate the storage. The previous filling level specifications are to be increased again from 80 to 85 percent by 1 October, and from 90 to 95 percent by 1 November. Large gas providers would then no longer be allowed to remove gas from the storage tanks.
The ministerial order required for this will be voted on within the Federal Government and is to come into effect in the next few days.
In order to replace gas power plants in an emergency, additional coal-fired power stations can be available on demand for a limited time until 31 March 2024. The corresponding regulation came into force on 14 July. By 1 October 2022, brown coal power stations are also to be activated from the network reserve. The brown coal power plants can then also return to the electricity market and replace natural gas power plants.
In order to avoid converting unnecessary natural gas into electricity, a further ordinance is being prepared, Habeck said. Renewable energies are also to make a greater contribution in order to drive natural gas out of the electricity segment. Above all, biogas generation is to be expanded, for example by suspending the prescribed annual maximum the plants are allowed to produce. The 70 percent capping rule for existing solar plants is also to be abolished.
To further reduce the gas consumption in companies and office buildings, rooms in which people do not regularly spend time should no longer be heated, such as corridors, large halls, foyers or engineering rooms. For public institutions and office buildings, this is to be regulated in ordinances.
Large industrial companies with a high energy consumption are to implement energy saving measures, which will pay for themselves within two years.
Tenants are also to receive more flexibility for saving energy. Currently they have to maintain a minimum temperature in their flats. This rental contractual obligation is to be temporarily suspended.
Furthermore, all owners of gas heating systems are to be obliged to carry out a heating check – with sufficient notice. Tenants of apartment buildings should carry out a hydraulic balance, if they have not already done so. The replacement of inefficient, uncontrolled heating pumps in buildings with central heating will also be obligatory. Heating private pools with gas will be prohibited.
The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is intensively informing people about voluntary, small and effective energy savings measures – turning down the heating a bit, for example, or periodic ventilation instead of tilting the windows while turning the heating up to maximum.