Regulator urges Germans to prepare for possible gas shortage

BERLIN — Fearing that Russia would cut off natural gas supplies, the head of Germany’s energy regulatory agency on Saturday called on residents to conserve energy and prepare for winter, when usage increases.

Klaus Mueller, president of the Federal Network Agency, urged home and apartment owners to have their gas water heaters and radiators checked and tuned to maximize their efficiency.

“Maintenance can reduce gas consumption by 10% to 15%,” he told Funke Mediengruppe, a German newspaper and magazine publisher.

Mueller said residents and property owners should use the 12 weeks before the cold weather kicks in to prepare. He said families should now start talking about “whether each room should be set to its usual temperature in winter — or whether some rooms could be a little colder.”

The call came after Russia cut gas flows to Germany, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia earlier this month, as European Union countries rush to fill storage facilities with the fuel used to power electricity, power industry and heating. to excite houses in the winter.

Russian state energy company Gazprom blames a technical problem on the reduction of natural gas flowing through Nord Stream 1, a pipeline that runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.

The company said equipment refurbished in Canada was trapped there because of Western sanctions over Russia’s war in Ukraine.

German leaders rejected that statement, calling the cuts a political move in response to European Union sanctions against Russia after it invaded Ukraine.

Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, also Germany’s economy and climate minister responsible for energy, has warned that a “blockage” of the pipeline is possible from July 11, when regular maintenance work is due to begin. In previous summers, the work has resulted in Nord Stream 1 shutting down for about 10 days, he said.

The question is whether the upcoming regular maintenance of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline will culminate in “a longer-term political maintenance,” the energy regulator’s Mueller said.

If the gas flow from Russia has to be cut “for a longer period of time, we will have to talk more seriously about savings,” he said.

According to Mueller, in the event of a gas shutdown, private households would be specially protected, as would hospitals or nursing homes.

“I can promise that we will do everything we can to prevent private households from running out of gas,” he said, adding: “We have learned from the coronavirus crisis that we should not make promises if we are not completely sure. whether we can make them come true.”

He said his agency “doesn’t see a scenario where there is no more gas coming to Germany at all”.

Also on Saturday, German chemical and consumer goods company Henkel said it is considering encouraging its employees to work from home during the winter in response to a potential shortage of supplies.

“Then we could greatly lower the temperature in the offices, while our employees can heat their homes in the normal way,” Henkel CEO Carsten Knobel told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

The Hamburg state government’s senator for the environment also expressed concern, saying he could not rule out the possibility that the northern German city would have to limit hot water for private households in the event of a gas shortage.

“In the event of an acute gas shortage, hot water could only be made available at certain times of the day,” Jens Kerstan told the weekly magazine Welt am Sonntag.

Earlier this month, Economy Minister Habeck activated the second phase of Germany’s three-stage emergency plan for natural gas supplies, warning that Europe’s largest economy was facing a “crisis” and that winter storage targets were at risk. .

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