Germans have been warned to prepare for a possible shortage of natural gas this winter amid fears that Russia could cut off supplies.
People have been urged to get their gas boilers and radiators checked and adjusted to maximise efficiency within the next 12 weeks, before the cold weather comes.
Klaus Mueller, the head of Germany‘s energy regulator, said this maintenance could reduce gas consumption by up to 15% – potentially resulting in significant savings.
Mr Mueller said that families would have to start talking now about “whether every room needs to be set at its usual temperature in the winter or whether some rooms can be a little colder”.
Germany has been heavily dependent on Russia for its energy imports, with 55% of its gas, 50% of its coal and 30% of its oil coming from the country.
Russia’s state-owned gas company Gazprom announced in June that there would be a 60% reduction in gas flows to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline which runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
At the time Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said reductions in supply were not premeditated but instead related to maintenance issues.
Critics allege this is untrue and that the cuts are intended by Moscow to pressure Europe against resisting its invasion of Ukraine.
Gazprom claimed that equipment it was having refurbished in Canada was stuck there because of Western sanctions.
Robert Habeck, who is Germany’s vice chancellor as well as the country’s economy and climate minister, has warned that a “blockade” of the pipeline starting on 11 July is possible, as regular maintenance work is due to start on that date.
Usually this maintenance work has caused Nord Stream 1 flows to shut down for about 10 days, but Mr Habeck has questioned whether the forthcoming period could last even longer for political reasons.
If the gas flow from Russia is “to be lowered for a longer period of time, we will have to talk more seriously about savings,” Mr Mueller said, warning that Germany may not be likely to meet its gas storage targets.
If the supply of gas from Russia was stopped completely then there would be special protections in place for private households, hospitals and nursing homes, he declared.
“I can promise that we will do everything we can to avoid private households being without gas,” he said, adding: “We learned from the coronavirus crisis that we shouldn’t make promises if we’re not entirely sure we can keep them.”
He said his agency “does not see a scenario in which there is no more gas coming to Germany at all”.
Also on Saturday, German chemical and consumer goods company Henkel said it was considering encouraging its employees to work from home in the winter as a response to a possible supply shortage.
“We could then greatly reduce the temperature in the offices, while our employees could heat their homes to the normal extent,” Henkel chief executive Carsten Knobel told daily newspaper Rheinische Post.
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