By KRISTEN GRIESHABER, Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) — Fearing that Russia could cut off natural gas supplies, the head of Germany’s energy regulatory agency on Saturday called on residents to save energy and prepare for winter , when consumption increases.
Federal Grid Agency Chairman Klaus Mueller has urged home and apartment owners to have their gas boilers and radiators checked and adjusted to maximize their efficiency.
“Maintenance can reduce gas consumption by 10-15%,” he told Funke Mediengruppe, a German newspaper and magazine publisher.
Mueller said residents and homeowners should use the 12 weeks before cold weather sets in to prepare. He said families should start thinking now “whether every room should be set to its usual winter temperature – or whether some rooms might be a bit colder”.
The call came after Russia cut gas flows to Germany, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia earlier this month as European Union countries scramble to fill storage facilities with the fuel used to generate electricity, the electrical industry and to heat homes in winter.
Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom has blamed a technical problem for the reduction in natural gas flowing through Nord Stream 1, a gas pipeline that runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
The company said equipment refurbished in Canada was stuck there due to Western sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
German leaders dismissed that explanation and called the cuts a political move in reaction to European Union sanctions against Russia after the invasion of Ukraine.
Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck, who is also Germany’s economy and climate minister and responsible for energy, has warned that a “blockage” of the pipeline is possible from July 11, when maintenance work regular should start. In previous summers, work caused Nord Stream 1 to shut down for around 10 days, he said.
The question is whether the upcoming scheduled maintenance of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline will turn into “longer political maintenance,” said the energy regulator’s Mueller.
If the flow of gas from Russia is “to be reduced for a longer period, we will have to talk more seriously about savings”, he said.
According to Mueller, in the event of a gas supply interruption, private households would be particularly protected, as would hospitals or nursing homes.
“I can promise that we will do everything we can to prevent private households from being deprived of gas,” he said, adding: “We have learned from the coronavirus crisis that we should not make promises if we’re not quite sure we can hold them.”
He said his agency “does not see a scenario in which there is no more gas coming into Germany at all.”
Also on Saturday, German chemicals and consumer goods company Henkel said it was considering encouraging its employees to work from home in the winter in response to a possible supply shortage.
“We could then significantly reduce the temperature in the offices, while our employees could heat their homes to the normal extent,” Henkel CEO Carsten Knobel told the Rheinische Post daily.
Earlier this month, Economy Minister Habeck activated the second phase of Germany’s three-stage emergency plan for natural gas supplies, warning that Europe’s biggest economy was facing a ” crisis” and that the storage objectives for the winter were threatened.
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