Germany activates the second phase of its emergency plan in the face of gas shortages after supply cuts from Russia | International

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The German Minister of Economy and Climate, Robert Habeck, during the press conference in Berlin.CHRISTIAN MANG (REUTERS)

Germany is preparing for possible gas rationing in the event that deliveries from Russia are completely interrupted and in anticipation of not being able to fill the tanks before the fall arrives. The German Government has raised the alarm level this Thursday to a second phase after the recent cuts in gas supply, which have reduced to just over a third the amount of hydrocarbon that arrives through the main gas pipeline that is still operational, the Nord Stream 1. This second level is activated when the Government sees a high risk of insufficient gas supply in the long term and allows, for example, companies to raise prices to users to reduce demand. However, the German Minister of Economy and Climate, Robert Habeck, has assured that this clause will not be activated for the time being. “Gas is from now on a scarce commodity,” he announced.

Given the decrease in gas flows from its main supplier, Russia, the leading European economy was in phase 1 of its emergency plan since the end of March. “We must not fool ourselves. The cut in the gas supply is an economic attack against us by Putin,” he said Thursday at a press conference in Berlin. Habeck reiterated that the supply is guaranteed and asked the Germans to save energy to the best of their ability. It is not the first time that the minister reminds that “every kilowatt hour counts”; he also did it a few days ago by presenting a federal campaign that invites savings and gives practical advice to apply it at home, such as reducing the time of showers or the temperature of the water.

The German Executive announced this Sunday that it will have to reactivate its old coal plants, a fuel that it had promised to abandon before 2030, given the risk of a lack of energy supply due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Government, a tripartite led by the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, advanced a series of measures to reduce the amount of gas used to generate electricity and to supply industry. The priority now is to accelerate the filling of the gas tanks in order to reach almost 100% capacity by autumn.

The move comes a few days after Russia cut the flow of gas it sends to Germany by two-thirds, citing technical problems. A decision that Habeck described as “political” and that he attributed to Moscow’s will to increase the price of hydrocarbons as a measure of pressure.

Under the second phase plan, Berlin will provide a €15 billion credit line to fill up gas storage facilities. In addition, this summer a gas auction model will be launched to encourage industrial gas consumers to save. Industrial clients that can do without hydrocarbons and reduce their consumption will receive incentives that will be financed through the market. The gas that they do not use will go to storage.

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The Ministry of Economy and Climate has deployed since March, when it activated the early warning level, a crisis team that constantly analyzes and evaluates the supply situation. This working group is also empowered to cut off certain consumers from the network if necessary, that is, to order, for example, certain companies to stop their production to avoid gas consumption and prioritize that of households. This situation would only be reached in the third phase of the national emergency plan, which establishes that large industrial clients would receive reduced amounts of gas, or no delivery, if rationing is necessary.

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