Germany says its citizens may have to ration the use of natural gas this winter as the country faces an energy “crisis” due to Russia reducing its supplies last week.
Berlin’s top financial official announced on Thursday that Europe’s largest economy was activating the second phase of its three-step emergency plan for natural gas consumption.
“Even if we can’t feel it yet – we are in a gas crisis,” said Economy and Energy Minister Robert Habeck.
German businesses will be asked to reduce the amount of natural gas they use.
The government says it will try to make up for the shortfall by turning to coal for its energy needs – despite the fact that doing so would undercut key climate goals.
Russia last week reduced natural gas to Germany, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia just as European Union countries are scrambling to refill storage of the fuel used to generate electricity, power industry and heat homes in the winter.
Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom blamed a missing part sent to Canada for repairs as it cut flows by 60% through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline running under the Baltic Sea to Germany – Europe’s major natural gas pipeline.
Tensions between Russia and the West are at a fever pitch after Moscow was hit with sanctions in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
Other countries that have imported Russian energy commodities, including Holland and Austria, have also asked their citizens to conserve.
Germany and Italy, two of Europe’s biggest buyers of Russian gas, have called Russia’s gas reductions politically motivated and warned they could further slow the economy.
“We are in an economic conflict with Russia,” said Habeck, accusing Moscow of trying to destroy European unity and the solidarity it has shown with Ukraine.
In recent weeks, Russia has shut off the supply of natural gas to Poland, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, and Holland.
German officials said current gas demands are being met and that the country’s storage facilities are filled to 58% capacity – which is higher than at this time last year.
The government hopes to hit 90% capacity by December, but that will only be made possible by instituting additional measures to conserve, according to authorities.
“The prices are already high, and we need to be prepared for further increases,” Habeck said, warning that “this will affect industrial production and become a big burden for many producers.”
With Post wires