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16 Sep 2022, 13:52
Sören Amelang

Impossible to forecast gas shortage in winter far in advance, says German grid agency

Handelsblatt

Germany will only be able to find out at short notice whether it will face any form of gas shortage in winter, which will then be impossible to prevent, according to the country’s grid agency BNetzA. “We should only know about a gas shortage when it can no longer be stopped," agency head Klaus Müller told Handelsblatt newspaper. He said his agency is working on models so it can give policymakers and businesses a few days' warning. “The weather, and therefore private heating behaviour, and the situation in neighbouring countries are the decisive criteria,” Müller said. “All three factors cannot be predicted.” He added that: "due to the well-filled storage facilities, we can buy ourselves time to prepare for a gas shortage for longer. But we cannot foresee more than one and a half weeks regarding gas consumption.”

Müller said that a gas shortage is likely to come and go in waves, if it occurs at all. "Gas shortages come, they go, they come back, they occur sometimes here, sometimes there, possibly even throughout Germany,” he explained. He said he could not give a serious forecast as to where the danger of a shortage would be greatest: "in Germany, there can be cold spells everywhere. If we get a very cold winter, we have a problem." Müller said industry cut its gas use by 22 percent in August – the amount his agency had asked for – by switching to other energy carriers and “hard production stops.” But he expressed concern over private households’ gas use, which has started to increase despite the mild temperatures because many landlords, tenants, and housing companies have left the settings on their heating systems unchanged from last autumn. “At a certain temperature, the heaters start up in the morning,” he said. “That’s a warning sign, we must address this urgently.” 

Germany has received very little gas from Russia since Gazprom shut down the key direct pipeline connection between the two countries - Nord Stream 1 - at the end of August. The German government has said it no longer counts on receiving gas from Russia. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said Germany would "make it through this winter".

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