Just a week ago, the German government launched an omnipresent advertising campaign in which it called on the population to achieve "together" a saving in energy consumption of 10% compared to previous summers. That 10% is the percentage necessary to reach winter with the reserves in a state that allows the alarm level to not continue to be raised, already activated in the first of the four levels. The German Minister of Economy and Climate, the green Robert Habeck, now considers, however, that voluntary savings will not be enough and wants to regulate it by law. "If the storage volumes do not increase, then we will have to take further measures to save energy, if this is also required by law," he said last night on the German public television ARD news program 'Tagesthemen0'.
Asked if that could also mean limiting the prescribed temperature for housing, the minister replied: "We haven't dealt with that in depth yet. We are going to look at all the laws involved before giving details.
The reason for this sudden tightening of Germany's energy saving policy is that in the last week Russia has reduced by 60% the amount of gas it supplies to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, which crosses the bottom of the Baltic Sea to reach the northern German shores. The Russian company Gazprom has reduced the volume of gas transported to only 67 million cubic meters per day and has justified its action by alleging repair work on a gas compression unit carried out by the German company Siemens and that prevent the gas pipeline from operate at full capacity. The German Federal Network Agency rejects this technical excuse and Minister Habeck has declared that "it is evident that it is only a pretext and that it is about destabilizing and raising prices". "This is how dictators and despots act," he judged, "this is what the confrontation between the Western allies and Russian President Vladimir Putin consists of."
The gas storage facilities are currently 56% full. This percentage, in a normal summer, would be above average. But in the current circumstances it is not enough. "We can't go into winter at 56%. They have to be full. Otherwise, we are really exposed”, explained Habeck, who says that, throughout the summer, Nord Stream 1 continues to transport much less gas than contracted, if it continues to do so. He acknowledges that the situation is serious, but insists that "currently the security of supply is guaranteed." In the event of gas shortages in the winter, the obvious first step would be to switch on coal-fired cogeneration plants instead of gas-fired ones, he has acknowledged. At the same time, Habeck has once again called on businesses and citizens to save energy and gas.
The German Association of Cities and Municipalities also advocates for changes in the legal framework. The general manager Gerd Landsberg has recalled that the owners of rented homes are obliged to guarantee a temperature of between 20 and 24 degrees throughout the winter. “That has to be changed. You can even live well in an apartment with 18 or 19 degrees and everyone should be able to bear this comparatively small sacrifice," Landsberg suggested. The Association of Housing and Real Estate Agents GdW has requested for its part that the minimum temperature required in rental contracts be 18 degrees during the day and 16 at night, in the event that the gas supply requires regulating the spectrum of temperatures. The proposal has been backed by Klaus Müller, president of the Federal Network Agency. “The State could temporarily reduce the heating thresholds, this is something that we are discussing and with which we agree”, he declared. The DMB Tenants Association, however, has called the proposal too simplistic. “Older people often get cold more easily than younger people. Indiscriminately telling them to use an additional blanket cannot be the solution," corrected the organization's president, Lukas Siebenkotten.
A bottleneck or even a disruption of Russian gas supply will further affect companies. According to the latest survey by the Institute for Labor Market and Occupational Research (IAB), in the event of a stoppage of entry, 9% of German companies would have to completely stop their production, while 18% would have to restrict it. This is stated in the report entitled 'Energy crisis and freezing of gas supply: effects on German companies' and published in Wirtschaftswoche. Initially it would not be possible to avoid rationing, say authors Christian Kagerl and Michael Moritz. But it is not necessary to reach the extreme of supply interruption for the European locomotive to feel the consequences. 14% of companies have already reduced their production due to rising energy prices and 25% report supply problems.