Germany’s natural gas reserves are not enough to see the country through next winter without purchasing additional Russian gas, the top official in charge of electricity and gas networks has told the media.
In an interview with Germany’s Bild am Sonntag, published on Sunday, Klaus Muller warned that while “gas reservoirs are nearly 65% full,” and “it’s better than in the previous weeks” it is still not sufficient to “go through the winter without Russian gas.”
Muller, who is president of Germany’s Federal Network Agency, added that much now depends on whether maintenance work on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline concludes as expected on Thursday.
When asked how long it would take before energy prices for consumers in Germany are further raised, in case of a complete stoppage of Russian gas deliveries, Muller said no decision has yet been made. However, he offered reassurances, noting that “there hasn’t been any significant price surge this week, even though the Nord Stream 1 was shut off.” The official suggested this may be a sign that “markets have already internalized the loss of Russian gas supplies and we’ve reached a gas-price-plateau.”
The energy regulator president insisted that Germans “shouldn’t succumb to panic,” assuring that “private households have the least reason of all to worry,” and will be provided with gas far longer than industry.
Moreover, according to the official, “there’s no scenario in which we remain completely without gas.” Muller noted that even if Russia were to cut supplies entirely, other countries like Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium would still be selling the fossil fuels to Germany. In future, the country’s own liquefied natural gas terminal will also make a difference, the network agency’s president added.
Muller said if gas rationing occurs, the agency will weigh up the potential damage to the economy and supply chains from shutting off supplies to any particular business or industrial plant.
The official went on to claim that even if there is a shortage, it will likely affect only the parts of Germany which are at the end of the gas network.
Muller also dismissed suggestions that Berlin should ban any gas exports to neighboring European countries, stressing the importance of solidarity.
“Just like we are now benefiting from the liquefied natural gas ports in Belgium and the Netherlands,” Germany would lend its neighbors a helping hand should they face a severe gas shortage, the official pledged.
Muller predicted that Germany has two difficult winters ahead, with a risk of gas shortages, but by summer 2024 the country will be independent from Russian gas.
“What is also true, however, is that the prices will never again be as low as they once were,” Muller acknowledged.
Since the start of Russia’s offensive against Ukraine, gas prices in Europe have soared, reaching an all-time-high of over $3,600 per 1,000 cubic meters in early March.
While Ukraine and some other Eastern-European nations, including Poland, have been calling on the EU to ban imports of Russian gas, Brussels has so far stopped short of implementing the measure due to a lack of consensus among member states.
German government officials and industry representatives have repeatedly warned that a stoppage of Russian gas supplies would deal a huge blow to the economy.
In late June, Economy Minister Robert Habeck activated the second phase of Germany’s three-stage emergency gas plan. It came as Russia slashed supplies via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, blaming the lack of a turbine, stuck in Canada due to sanctions.
On Monday, Russia began regular maintenance work on the pipeline, meaning no gas was flowing to Germany at all.
Also this week, Berlin asked Ottawa to exempt the piece of equipment cited by Moscow as the reason for falling supplies.
Canada has accepted Berlin’s request, and will ship the turbine to Germany, from where it will make its way to Russia, allowing Ottawa to avoid violating its own sanctions by using an indirect delivery route.
Meanwhile on Friday, Russia’s state energy giant Gazprom officially asked German industrial giant Siemens to provide the paperwork needed for the return of the equipment to Russia.