Germany fears millions of homes will be left without heating this winter as low pressure in gas pipelines – caused by Russian President Vladimir Putin cutting supplies – is causing disruptions to the country’s energy infrastructure.
As with many EU countries, concerns about the coming winter have increased in the bloc’s largest economy, with fears of energy shortages and the need to ration as winter approaches.
But during a meeting between the head of the Chancellor’s Office – Wolfgang Schmidt – and the heads of the state chanceries on Wednesday, concerns were also raised about a lack of pressure in the pipelines, according to Bild.
Germany fears millions of homes will be left without heating this winter, as low pressure in the gas pipelines causes failures. An exterior view of the natural gas landing station of the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea Pipeline on August 4, 2022 in Lubmin, Germany
Should heating systems fail, there will also be a delay in restarting as work would be required to reconnect them to the gas supply. This means houses can be without energy for days until they find an engineer.
The German federal government has required utilities to notify at least 24 hours in advance if supply problems arise. Officials hope this will prompt the Federal Network Agency to take control of gas distribution.
In response to sanctions imposed on Russia by the west over Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has halted some of its supplies to Europe – which remains heavily dependent on gas exports from Russia.
Before the war in Ukraine, Russian gas accounted for about 40 percent of EU consumption. By comparison, that figure is about 4 percent for the UK.
Some countries – including Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands – saw their supplies cut because of their refusal to pay for Russian gas in rubles, after Moscow ordered them to pay in the country in an effort to save the ailing economy.
Germany, Italy, France, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic also saw their supply decline. Germany recorded a 40 percent decrease in flows through its Nord Stream 1 pipeline – a massive 745-mile pipeline that runs under the Baltic Sea and connects Russia to the city of Greifswald.
In May, Russia closed the Yamal gas pipeline, which runs through Belarus and Poland and supplies gas to Germany and other countries in Europe.
Then, a few weeks later, in mid-June, Russian state gas exporter Gazprom cut its supplies through Nord Stream 1 by 75 percent and shut it down for 10 days in early July, citing “maintenance work.”
Now, shortly before opening, Gazprom has halved the amount delivered via Nord Stream 1 to 20 million cubic meters per day – about 90 percent lower than what it delivered before the first cut, when it pumped 170 million cubic meters per day.
Wholesale gas prices in Europe shot up 10 percent the day after Russia announced its intention to restrict supplies, and gas prices in Europe are now 450 percent higher than last year at this point.
A stalemate over the return of a turbine that Russia says is blocking gas supplies to Europe did not appear to be resolved on Thursday. Moscow said it needed documentation to confirm that the equipment was not subject to sanctions. Pictured: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stands in front of a turbine of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline during a visit on August 3, 2022
Yesterday, the German cabinet agreed to introduce a planned tariff on gas consumers from October to help suppliers affected by rising gas import prices resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The plan, announced last week, comes as the country seeks to reduce its dependence on Russian energy. It faces a gas supply collapse and rising prices, raising fears of energy shortages and insolvencies among gas traders.
“The temporary tax is a consequence of the crisis caused by Russia. It is not an easy step, but it is a necessary one to ensure heating and energy supplies for private households and the economy,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in a statement.
The levy on consumers, which is accompanied by targeted relief, is intended to help importers, especially Uniper, the largest recipient of Russian gas in Germany, which receives a state aid. Other companies are EnBW’s gas division VNG.
The levy is expected to come into effect on October 1 and end on April 1, 2024, the ministry said.
The exact size will be announced in mid-August, the ministry said. Habeck said last week it would be between 1.5 cents and 5 cents per kilowatt hour (Kwh), with the proceeds available to any company that needs to replace Russian gas.
Government and parliamentary sources have told Reuters that it is yet to be clarified how the levy will be applied to customers with fixed-price contracts.
Meanwhile, a stalemate over the return of a turbine that Russia says is blocking gas supplies to Europe showed no signs of a fix on Thursday. Moscow said it needed documentation to confirm that the equipment was not subject to sanctions.
Germany’s Siemens Energy was servicing the turbine for the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline in Canada and said it was ready for immediate return.
Gazprom reiterated sanctions imposed by Canada, the EU and Britain that prevented the equipment from being returned to Russia.
It added three other turbines that also needed major maintenance, and only one of the six main gas turbines was currently working on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, with the exception of an emergency reserve. That means it can pump no more than 33 million cubic meters of gas a day, or about one-fifth of its capacity, it said in a statement.
Germany’s Siemens Energy was carrying out maintenance in Canada on the turbine for the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline and said it was ready for immediate return.
Some Western leaders have accused Russia of using the deadlock as a pretext to cut energy supplies in revenge for sanctions imposed on Moscow over Ukraine.
“Gazprom would really like to have this turbine back, but it was not Gazprom that imposed sanctions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Gazprom must protect itself (from sanction risks), this turbine is its property.”
The Russian newspaper Kommersant quoted a source familiar with the details as saying that on August 3, Gazprom received a package of documents from Siemens Energy, including a green light from the German Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Controls for the turbine to enforce the modified controls. to be submitted in July. 26, 2023.
Siemens Energy also told Gazprom that no official sanction statement from the European Commission was needed and that the UK had also confirmed in writing to Gazprom that there were no sanctions preventing the turbine’s return, Kommersant said.
The paper added that no separate transportation waiver was needed as the turbine is not subject to sanctions and that Siemens Energy was willing to support the maintenance of the Nord Stream 1 equipment by providing a local engineer.
Siemens Energy told Reuters that the turbine was ready for operation and could be shipped immediately. “If the operator really wants the turbine, he’ll get it,” an email reads.
The German Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control declined to comment when Reuters reached out.
Earlier this week, the head of the United Nations called for “greedy” oil and gas companies to tax their huge profits in times of rising energy bills, while ordinary people pay the price.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was ‘immoral’ for energy companies to benefit from Ukraine’s crisis and called for a one-time windfall tax
Secretary General Antonio Guterres made his comments as energy prices rose and major energy companies are making record profits from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“This grotesque greed punishes the poorest and most vulnerable while destroying our only common home,” Guterres said.
“I urge all governments to tax these excessive profits and use the funds to help the most vulnerable people through these difficult times.”
Guterres warned that rising energy prices had the potential to destabilize the global economy and to usher in “a wave of economic, social and political turmoil that would leave no country untouched.”
“Many developing countries – drowning in debt, with no access to finance and struggling to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic – could go overboard.”