Germany’s vice-chancellor is stepping up an appeal for the country’s residents to save energy after Russia’s Gazprom announced significant cuts in natural gas deliveries through a key pipeline.
State-owned Gazprom announced on Tuesday that it was cutting gas flows through the undersea Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany by 40%, then, a day later, announced a further cut that brings the overall reduction to about 60%.
In both cases, it cited a technical problem, saying that Canadian sanctions over the war in Ukraine prevented German partner Siemens Energy from delivering equipment that had been sent for overhaul. The German government rejected that reasoning, saying that maintenance shouldn’t have been an issue until the fall and the Russian decision was a political gambit to sow uncertainty and push up prices.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “is doing what was to be feared from the beginning: He is reducing the volume of gas, not in one go but step by step,” German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck said in a video posted by his ministry on Twitter Wednesday night. He pointed to earlier Russian moves to cut supplies to Bulgaria, Denmark, and others.
The reduction in gas flows comes as Germany and the rest of Europe try to reduce their dependence on Russian energy imports. Germany, which has Europe’s biggest economy, gets about 35% of its gas from the power industry and generates electricity from Russia.
The German gas regulator confirmed on Thursday that gas flows through Nord Stream 1 had fallen to about 40% of capacity. But it said it could not confirm that the reduction was caused by the technical problem Russia cited, the shutdown of a turbine at a gas compressor station.
The Federal Network Agency of Germany said it had no concerns about German gas supplies, saying storage facilities were significantly fuller than in previous years.
The news of the reductions sent short-term natural gas prices sharply higher in Europe. Month-ahead spot prices rose 13% Thursday to 139.10 euros per kilowatt-hour, up 40% since Monday.
Habeck, who is also the economy minister, already launched a campaign for people to save energy last week. After the Gazprom announcements, he hammered home the message in Wednesday night’s video.
“Gas is coming to Europe – we have no supply problem, but the volumes of gas must be acquired on the market and it will get more expensive,” Habeck said. He said the government is prepared and noted that it has enacted legislation requiring gas storage to be filled.
He lauded the willingness of Germans and businesses to save energy and store gas.
“Now is the time to do so,” he said. “Every kilowatt hour helps in this situation. It is a situation that is serious, but not a situation that endangers supply security in Germany.”