Klaus Müller seems to have set his alarm extra early. Early in the morning, the President of the Federal Network Agency informed via Twitter what is happening in the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline after the ten-day maintenance. The Green politician and confidante of Economics Minister Habeck tweeted intensively the day before.
Gazprom has announced that it will supply 800 gigawatt hours of gas. A few hours later, Müller again on Twitter. Gazprom only wants to deliver 530 gigawatt hours.
On Thursday morning, after it became clear that gas was flowing back to Germany from Russia, Müller tweeted again. Gas flows so far would indicate around 700 gigawatt hours that day – around the throttled level before the maintenance.
“Unfortunately, the political uncertainty and the 60 percent cut from mid-June remain,” tweeted Müller. It is probably intended as a transparency service, but Müller’s excited tweets reflect the mood in the federal government – and their own powerlessness when it comes to gas deliveries from Russia.
The earlier architects of Russia policy, from Angela Merkel to Frank-Walter Steinmeier, have to learn that in retrospect the constant increase in gas dependence on Moscow can be classified as a historical mistake. Until recently, the Economics Ministry was unsure whether Russian President Vladimir Putin would turn on the gas tap again.
In the ten days without gas from Nord Stream 1, concern had increasingly turned into panic, probably in the spirit of Putin. A rationing debate had given a bleak outlook for the winter. At an event on Wednesday evening, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) even warned of possible “popular uprisings” that could threaten a permanent gas freeze. But the price surcharges, which could triple in the medium term, and also significantly higher electricity costs are also increasing the alarmism in the federal government.
The pressure that Putin had recently built up with his targeted confusion about an allegedly defective gas turbine seems to be having an effect on those involved in Berlin. And how he’s also increasingly trying to divide Europe with his game is shown by the fact that Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto traveled to Moscow on Thursday to seal the delivery of an additional 700 million cubic meters of gas from Russia, while harder-spoken countries such as Germany sided with Putin have to keep shaking.
At a press conference, Habeck and Müller try to get back on the offensive. The minister from the Home Office, who is infected with Corona, criticizes that Russia is an “insecure cantonist” when it comes to energy supply. Russia uses its gas to blackmail Germany.
From the living room he swears the population to a joint effort: “We need staying power, winter is yet to come,” says Habeck, who expects that next year’s winter will also be a challenge for Germany and the EU.
The federal government wants to react to the continuing danger of a gas freeze with another energy security law, announced Habeck and presented a whole list of ideas with which gas should be saved. The gas storage tanks are to be filled more quickly by law and are to be filled to 75 percent by September 1st and to 85 percent by October 1st.
Habeck complains that the large storage facilities in particular are still too empty, referring to companies such as Uniper, which have recently even withdrawn gas due to payment difficulties. In addition, a regulation is intended to use more coal and oil for rail transport. More biogas is to come onto the market and lignite power generation is to be ramped up again on October 1st.
But Habeck also wants to save more gas in industry and in private households. Large companies are to be obliged to implement energy-saving measures now, which will pay off financially again within two years due to lower consumption.
In public buildings, passageways should no longer be heated in winter, between Christmas and New Year Habeck can imagine such a regulation for companies as well. In addition, tenants should no longer be obliged to heat their apartment to a minimum temperature for the next two winters. Even private pools should no longer be heated with gas, and a “heating check” will become mandatory. “The mother of the porcelain box is caution,” Habeck explains the measures. When asked, however, Habeck did not know how much gas could be saved in this way.
The paradox: Despite the gas bottlenecks and insufficiently filled storage facilities, more gas is currently being used to produce electricity than ever before. On Thursday morning around 09.15 alone, electricity production using natural gas was 10,089 megawatts, for comparison: nuclear energy production at the time was 3968 megawatts, that from hard coal was 5775 megawatts, only lignite (12,899 MW) and solar (13 642 MW) produced more electricity than natural gas.
This is partly related to the European electricity market. Since numerous nuclear power plants in France are idle due to maintenance or heat-related water shortages, electricity exports are increasing. However, since gas-fired power generation is particularly expensive, this is currently also driving up electricity prices.
Until the Russian invasion of Ukraine, gas-fired power plants were considered the ideal partner for renewable energies: unlike nuclear and coal-fired power plants, gas-fired power plants can be ramped up and down quickly to compensate for fluctuating solar and wind power production. And with the prospect of Nord Stream 2 and cheap Russian gas, many municipal utilities are currently relying on gas-fired power plants.
The need is correspondingly great here. The managing director of the Association of Municipal Enterprises (VKU), Ingbert Liebing, emphasizes: “The resumption of operation of Nord Stream 1 is a good signal at first glance. At second glance, however, this is no reason to sit back and relax, because the reduced deliveries show that Putin is using gas as a weapon in his economic war.” Politicians, the energy industry, business and the public should not let up in saving gas now.
“Our country and its society are being attacked economically by Russia – all measures that reduce gas consumption serve as a precautionary measure and ultimately also our defense.” The storage facilities should be at least 90 percent full by autumn; The representative of around 800 municipal utilities is calling for a government protective umbrella “to be able to maintain an affordable energy supply” because of the enormously increased prices for municipal utilities and municipal energy suppliers.
Because even in the event of a complete halt to deliveries, no prices and costs should have to be passed on to customers “that lead to uncontrolled market reactions and further social burdens.”
In view of a feared change in mood, the Union is calling on the federal government to do more to solicit support for the sanctions against Russia. Putin is counting on getting used to and becoming blunted in the face of the war in the West and wants Germany in particular to “wear down the energy issue,” says parliamentary group leader Johann Wadephul (CDU). “This calculation must not add up.”
The federal government must counter criticism of the sanctions policy of the West more clearly. The rule applies: “Never reach into a hornet’s nest, and if you do, then firmly.” Wadephul denies that there are also movements in the CDU to move away from the Russia policy of the federal government and the West, in his party there is “unity” in this regard.
However, Saxon Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) recently criticized the consequences of the sanctions and called for a negotiated solution based on the status quo to end the war with German help. According to a Forsa survey, 53 percent now see greater damage for Germany than for Russia – it was Chancellor Scholz’s principle that the sanctions should never harm Germany again.