In view of rapidly increasing energy costs, the Federal Association of Consumer Centers is calling on people to build up reserves as soon as possible. “The already high prices for electricity and above all for gas are likely to rise sharply in the coming months, people should prepare for that,” said Jutta Gurkmann, the division manager of the Federation of Consumer Organizations, of the German Press Agency.
According to estimates by the Federal Network Agency, the monthly gas discounts will at least triple next year. The reason for this is the consequences of the Ukraine war and reduced Russian deliveries.
Importers such as the energy group Uniper are currently making heavy losses: They no longer get Russian gas and have to buy expensive gas from other sources in order to be able to service supply contracts with public utilities and industrial companies.
So far, Uniper has not been allowed to pass on the additional costs in the existing contractual relationships. However, the federal government is now advising how the ailing company can be rescued: Either Uniper passes on the extra costs one-to-one to its customers or a pay-as-you-go system is introduced, in which the general public is ultimately asked to pay.
Consumer advocate Gurkmann advocates the pay-as-you-go system because the price increases here would not be quite as extreme as in the price-passing system. The reason for this: If Uniper could pass on the additional costs to a public utility, this public utility would have to massively increase its prices.
If it were a pay-as-you-go system, other regions and other parts of the industry that have gotten off lightly so far would also share the extra costs – and the upward trend would be less steep. “We hope for a levy system that is fair and transparent for consumers,” says Gurkmann.
Cities and municipalities are already preparing for the event that there is no longer enough gas available in winter. The first measures have already been taken, said the general manager of the German Association of Cities, Helmut Dedy, on Deutschlandfunk.
The cities are already trying to do everything they can to reduce their gas consumption. You can start, for example, in the sports and cultural sectors – for example by closing some of the outdoor pools or changing the opening times. Lowering the room temperature in public buildings will not do the trick. You have to be prepared for a difficult time in Germany.
Dedy explained that the cities’ crisis teams are already working on a step-by-step procedure for the time at which it is known how the gas supply is doing. For example, the question is how to proceed with the drinking water supply or digital systems if there is no longer enough electricity available. It’s not about stirring up panic and fears, but about taking precautions.
Habeck told the editorial network Germany that his impression was that the seriousness of the situation had arrived from the economy to cities, states and the federal government to consumers. As part of his austerity appeal, he explained that it would not be possible to heat entire office towers to more than 20 degrees if only three people were sitting inside. “It would be fatal to heat offices until 11 p.m. and at the same time destroy entire branches of industry.”
The previous practice for heating public buildings must also be changed, demanded Habeck. “In many public buildings, full room temperature is provided from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. A little less would also be tolerable in the off-peak hours.”
The Greens politician confirmed the intention to realize a cost reduction for the citizens in the coming year. “Even high earners swallow when they suddenly have to pay 4,500 euros a year for heating instead of 1,500. For people with medium or low incomes, these sums are simply not representable. The federal government must organize relief here, also in 2023. I am sure that the Ministry of Finance will make provisions for this,” said Habeck.
Green party leader Ricarda Lang spoke out in favor of a “moratorium on termination for tenants” in view of the high prices. “It’s not possible for people to lose their homes because of the rise in energy prices,” Lang told the news portal t-online.
The background to the discussion is the uncertain supply of Germany and Europe with Russian natural gas as an indirect consequence of the Ukraine war. No gas has flowed through the most important pipeline, Nord Stream 1, since Monday. Gas transport has been interrupted for annual maintenance work on the pipeline’s compressor stations.
According to the operating company, this work should last until July 21. In Germany there is concern that the pipeline will not be put back into operation and that gas will run out in winter.
As early as June, the Gazprom group had significantly reduced deliveries through Nord Stream 1 in the Baltic Sea, citing a missing compressor turbine from Siemens Energy, which was being serviced in Canada. In the meantime, the Canadian government has decided that the turbine can be brought to Germany despite the sanctions against Russia.
Gazprom has now asked Siemens Energy to initiate the return of the turbine, the company announced on Saturday. It is expected that Siemens Energy will fulfill its contract for the maintenance and repair of the gas turbines. The further functioning of Nord Stream 1 depends on this.
Berlin’s Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey called for close cooperation between the federal and state governments in the gas crisis. If Russia does not open the controls again after the maintenance work on Nord Stream 1, a special prime ministerial conference must be convened together with the federal government, the SPD politician told the German Press Agency.