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This article in German.
Last week, Gazprom reduced the flow of gas through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline to 60 percent – many other countries no longer receive any gas from Russia at all.
Germany is much more dependent on Russian gas than other countries, its supply is no longer guaranteed for next winter. Putin knows that he can close the gas valve again at any moment.
German Foreign Minister Robert Habeck (52, Alliance of the 90s/Greens) is responding by taking urgent action to start saving energy now. Particularly problematic for the “green” minister: more coal-fired thermal power plants must be put into operation!
“This is a big disappointment, but in this situation it is simply necessary to reduce gas consumption. We must now do everything possible to save as much gas as possible in the summer and autumn,” Habek notes in a report to the German government, which became known over the weekend.
Minister’s urgent action:
▶ Billion-dollar loans (€15 billion credit line through 2025) from the Recovery and Development Bank to free up funds for gas purchases from other sources – it has been heard in government circles that this loan has already been approved.
▶ Gas from industrial enterprises can be bought at an auction already in the summer. The purpose of this measure is to provide gas consumers in the industry with more incentives to save gas. Firms that refuse gas can be paid to reduce their consumption if they make the gas available to other enterprises. “The less we consume, the more it helps,” Habek says. Industry, moreover, is a key factor in saving gas. After all, it is important not so much for heating apartments, but for industry – as a raw material for production and for energy supply.
Due to the severe reduction in gas supplies from Russia to Germany, the Federal Grid Agency issued a warning regarding a possible reduction in the volume of gas supplies for industry as early as this summer.
According to BILD, the head of the Federal Network Agency, Klaus Müller, said during negotiations with the German Ministry of Economics that gas storage facilities in Germany can only reach the required level in the autumn if supplies from Russia again reach the previous volumes in the coming days. If this does not happen, the German government must negotiate with about 2,000 large clients and consult on possible restrictions. These restrictions should be introduced this summer.
The current capacity of gas storages in Germany is at the level of 56.7%. However, the government must fill them up to 80% by October 1, and up to 90% by November 1. Otherwise, a critical situation may occur.
Industry supports Habek’s plans.
▶ “We must reduce gas consumption as much as possible, every kilowatt hour counts,” says Siegfried Russwurm, President of the Industrie Union. – The priority should be to fill the gas storage facilities for next winter. Currently, we are talking about short-term transitional measures for energy provision, and not about the timing of the phase-out of coal before 2038 or 2030.”
▶ Karl Heusgen, President of the Association of Mechanical Engineers, emphasized: “We are moving towards a very difficult situation. Therefore, Habek’s plans are correct, in particular, the project to stimulate reduced gas consumption in industry through tenders. Thanks to this, the reduction in consumption will be associated with the least damage.”
Criticism from small and medium enterprises.
“Due to the reduction of Russian gas supplies, small and medium-sized enterprises are worried that they will be left with nothing if energy consumption is reduced, in contrast to large industry and private consumers,” Markus Jerger, Governor of the Federal Union of Small and Medium Enterprises, tells Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland . “Habek’s plans to distribute gas through an auction model may mean that small and medium-sized enterprises will not be able to compete.”
Coal-fired power plants, according to the energy industry, can be brought back into operation quickly. The TPPs that are on standby could be brought back online in the short term, said Kerstin Andreae, chairman of the governing board of the Federal Energy and Water Association, on ARD’s Morgenmagazin program on Monday. As for hard coal, it needs to be imported and stockpiled, but in principle this is also a possible alternative. Although the associated increase in CO2 emissions into the atmosphere is a significant problem, however, the volume of gas consumption must be reduced.
The chairman of the CDU / CSU faction in the Bundestag, Jens Spahn, subjected the plans of the Minister of Economics Robert Habek to save gas consumption to harsh criticism. Spahn believes that they are too late. As Spahn said in the Morgenmagazin program of the ARD television channel, the German government is clearly ill-prepared: “If more coal-fired thermal power plants had started to be commissioned in March instead of gas power plants, then the gas storage facilities would now be filled by 10% more.”
Khabek, according to Shpan, goes only halfway, since he does not allow the extension of the operation of nuclear power plants. Spahn does not understand why the “green” minister prefers to operate thermal power plants longer than CO2-neutral nuclear power plants.
In view of the resistance from the concerns that own nuclear power plants, due to the large obstacles to extending their operation, the deputy chairman of the Bundestag faction noted that the power engineers would not be happy about this, since such steps are associated with large additional costs. “However, we are now in a very difficult position,” said Spahn. Before citizens are forced to freeze, politicians must test all alternative solutions.
“Among them is also the extension of the operating life of nuclear power plants,” said Spahn. This is not about calling into question the timing of the end of the use of atomic energy.