The German economy minister says the move reflects the “significant deterioration in the gas supply situation”.
Germany has moved closer to gas rationing as it raised the alert level under an emergency plan after Russia cut supplies to the country.
“Gas is now a scarce commodity in Germany,” Economic Affairs Minister Robert Habeck told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.
By activating the second “alarm” level under its action plan, Germany is one step closer to the third and final phase where gas rationing could take place in Europe’s top economy.
The development reflected a “significant deterioration in gas supplies,” Habeck said.
Germany, like several other European countries, relies heavily on Russian energy imports to meet its needs.
Russian energy giant Gazprom cut deliveries to Germany through the Nord Stream pipeline by 60 percent last week due to what the company said was a delayed repair. But Germany has brushed aside the technical justification for the move, calling it a “political decision” instead.
Russia used gas “as a weapon” against Germany in retaliation for the West’s support for Ukraine after the invasion of Moscow, Habeck said, with the aim of “destroying” European unity.
Dominic Kane of Al Jazeera, reporting from Berlin, said the implications for the government’s decision will differ between household consumers and industry.
“For those residential homeowners, for people who live in rental properties, it doesn’t mean their gas supplies are under threat right now,” Kane said.
“For those consumers in industries, it’s more serious because here the government is saying ‘We believe there will come a time when we may have to ration the gas supply’ and keep in mind that in the summer in Europe, residential gas users don’t go out of their homes much. heating, but the industrial sector will consume and use a large amount of gas throughout the year,” he added.
Gazprom has already stopped deliveries to a number of European countries, including Poland, Bulgaria, Finland and the Netherlands.
The supply of gas to Europe’s largest economy in its current form was “certain,” and energy companies were still able to “manage” the crisis, Habeck said. The higher alert level would mainly lead to more monitoring of the supply situation, but action was still needed to prepare for the coming winter.
“If we don’t act now, it will get worse,” Habeck said.
In April, Germany ordered a 90 percent fill gas storage facilities in early December to mitigate the risks of a supply freeze.
Currently, the country’s stores are just under 60 percent full, above the average level of previous years. However, the targets would be difficult to achieve if exports to other countries, which are difficult to justify within Europe, were not restricted.
If these were to return to levels before the most recent supply pressure, Germany could face an acute gas shortage in February 2023, while a further reduction in supplies through the Nord Stream pipeline could make the situation worse.
The German government already expects supplies to stop between 11 and 25 July for pipeline maintenance.
If deliveries are not resumed after the service period, Germany could face a gas shortage as early as “mid-December”.