According to the Bundesnetzagentur, the chances of Germany getting through the winter without gas bottlenecks have improved noticeably.
"A gas shortage this winter is becoming increasingly unlikely," predicted the regulatory authority in its current gas supply management report. For the first time since mid-June, the network agency changed its assessment of the situation. So far, the authority had rated the situation as "tense". Now she judged that the situation was "less tense than at the beginning of winter".
The background: Three months after the start of the heating period, the filling level of the German gas storage facilities is still more than 90 percent - 14 days in a row even additional gas was recently stored. Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) said during a visit to Oslo, Norway: "That doesn't give us complete certainty that we'll get through the winter. But it does show that the efforts of the past have paid off." In addition, one is in a situation that was not to be expected at the end of last year after the termination of Russian gas supplies.
However, the Federal Network Agency warned that a deterioration cannot be ruled out. Economical gas consumption remains important. In the event of a gas shortage, industry and other parts of the economy would no longer get as much gas as they want, but only what the state allotted them - the companies would then have to cut back their production. There has never been a situation like this in the history of the Federal Republic. With the assessment of the situation, which has been slightly modified by the Federal Network Agency, it is becoming clearer that such an industrial horror scenario will not become reality for the time being.
There are several reasons for the positive development. On the one hand, Germany has simply been lucky: The winter has been relatively mild so far, so gas heating is not running at full speed. In addition, in view of the Russian supply freeze, Germany increased its imports from other sources, and liquefied natural gas terminals were built at lightning speed on Germany's coast. A few days ago, the first LNG tanker arrived at the new terminal in Wilhelmshaven. The terminal for liquefied natural gas in Lubmin is scheduled to receive the last outstanding operating license in the coming week.
Bought more liquid gas, consumption decreased
All in all, much more liquid gas was bought from the world market than was previously the case. In view of the sharp rise in gas prices, this was an expensive affair, but necessary in view of the impending damage to the economy. Efforts to save have also paid off: citizens used significantly less gas. According to the Federal Network Agency's management report, gas consumption in the past week was 30 percent lower than the average for this calendar week in the past four years.
However, the weather also helped: According to the information, the week was 3.8 degrees warmer than in previous years. Factoring out the temperature effect, the Federal Network Agency came to a 20.4 percent lower consumption in the past two weeks (calendar weeks 51 and 52), compared to the reference value of the past four years.
wholesale prices fall
There are also positive developments when it comes to gas prices: In wholesale, the price has recently fallen significantly. Above all, this relieves the state budget, which has to spend less money on the gas price brake, says Georg Zachmann from the Bruegel think tank. Initially, customers would only benefit to a very limited extent from the lower wholesale prices, since the price is roughly at the level of the gas price brake that has now been activated. That is still four to five times the price before the crisis.
The energy expert Thomas Engelke from the Federal Association of Consumer Centers also dampens consumer hopes for a rapid reduction in energy costs. "Even if wholesale gas prices remain low - which is by no means certain - it may still take many consumers until the middle or end of the year for the price reduction to reach them." The reason for this is the mostly longer-term supply contracts in the gas industry.