Diminished Russian gas flows could lead Germany to regulate gas retailing – econ min
ARD / Tagesspiegel
The increasing pressure on Germany’s gas supply system could lead the government to tighten its grip on gas distribution and enforce savings by law, economy and climate minister Robert Habeck told public broadcaster ARD. The ministry told Clean Energy Wire gas flows would be monitored hourly to decide about next possible steps.
Following Russian company Gazprom’s announcement that it will reduce the amount of gas delivered to Germany through the key Nord Stream 1 pipeline by about 60 percent, Habeck said “we will implement further measures to save gas, if need be also by law” if the country’s gas storages cannot be filled as planned. The Green Party politician added it was not yet clear whether this might include measures like the mandatory reduction of minimum temperatures in rental flats, which the country’s network agency BNetzA proposed earlier this week. “We haven’t examined this intensively yet. We’ll look at every law that could play a role here,” the minister said. The country’s gas storages are currently 56 percent filled, Habeck said, which would be above the average for this time of the year but still far below the 90 percent the government aims to have stored by November. “We cannot go into winter with 56 percent. They have to be full by that time,” he argued, adding that the country otherwise could face real difficulties. Supply is currently secure, Habeck said, but challenges could arise once temperatures drop later this year. The first measures would include replacing gas plants for heating with coal wherever possible. At the same time, savings by households and businesses are an imperative, Habeck said.
At a Russian business conference in St. Petersburg, the country’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, suggested that Nord Stream might be shut down entirely in the near future. “I think this would be a catastrophe for Germany,” Chizhov told Russian newspaper Kommersant, according to an article in Tagesspiegel. Gazprom head Alexei Miller suggested the parallel pipeline Nord Stream 2 could be used instead, adding that Russia would not accept any orders on gas trading. “Our product, our rules,” Miller said, according to the article.
Russian state-owned company Gazprom earlier this week said it will drastically reduce flows through the offshore Nord Stream pipeline due to technical problems caused by German engineering company Siemens, which allegedly failed to return a compressor unit on time. Siemens and the German government confirmed that the component is currently in Canada for maintenance. However, Habeck said there was no indication that the missing part had caused the problem, which therefore might be only a pretext used by Russia’s government to cut gas supplies and increase prices. According to comparison website Check24, prices for gas have increased by 64 percent since the beginning of the week as a direct result of lower supply from Russia and a fire at an LNG port in the U.S.. Network agency BNetzA confirmed that Germany’s most important gas pipeline on Thursday ran at only 40 percent capacity. The reduction coincided with a visit by German chancellor Olaf Scholz to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, about four months after Russia launched a war on its neighbour.