The Germany city of Hanover has become the first big city in Europe to ban hot water and central heating in public buildings in response to Vladimir Putin’s weaponizing of gas supplies.
The drastic step comes as Germans have been told to expect sky high electricity bills and sweeping gas rationing measures that will affect their day-to-day lives.
In a sign of things to come, Hanover, the capital of Lower Saxony in the north west of the country, will cut off the hot water in public buildings, swimming pools, sports halls and gyms.
Other desperate gas-saving measures include switching off public fountains and blacking out night-time lights on major buildings such as the town hall and museums.
The city’s mayor, Belit Onay, spoke of an ‘imminent gas shortage’ that meant they had to reduce the city’s energy consumption by 15 per cent.
EU prices are at near-record levels amid fears Russia could soon turn off the gas tap completely, with leaders already discussing energy rationing
Wholesale gas prices surged yesterday after Vladimir Putin’s regime halved supplies to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline
UK energy bills could hit £500-per-month in January
Energy bills could hit £500 for the month of January after Russia cut back gas supplies to Europe.
Wholesale gas prices surged yesterday after Vladimir Putin’s regime halved supplies to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, in what Germany condemned as a ‘duplicitous game’.
The move pushed up the price of gas across Europe, with many countries drawing up contingency plans to cut gas and electricity use by 15 per cent in order to conserve supplies and protect families through the winter.
These include turning off street lights, not heating public swimming pools and shutting down production at some major manufacturers, however more drastic measures may be necessary.
Germany and other European nations are racing to buy consignments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) via container from the United States, Africa and the Middle East, however this is pushing up prices and will be insufficient to fill the gap left by Russia.
Any increase in the wholesale cost of gas is pushed through to electricity as it is used as fuel in around 40 per cent of UK power stations.
The plans call for shutting off heating within public buildings between April and September each year, and thermostats set at just 20C (68F) for the rest of the year, although there will be some exemptions.
There will also be a ban on portable air conditioners, heaters and radiators among the general populace as the average German begins to pay a price for standing up to the Russian dictator.
The panic among European states – especially Germany – will likely come as music to Putin’s ears, as he is seen to be cutting energy supplies in retaliation for countries that have supported Ukraine after he invaded the country.
Germany, like most of Europe, has been enjoying a hot summer which should soften the blow of the cold showers, but public officials are introducing the measures now in fear of what awaits them when the season turns.
Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant, has been giving European leaders sleepless nights by disrupting the flow of gas via its Nord Stream 1 pipe line.
They cut the flow to 40 per cent in June, citing maintenance issues, and this week they reduced the gas supply through the pipe to just 20 per cent.
These reductions, which EU energy chief Kadri Simson dismissed as ‘politically motivated’, have seen energy bills soar, governments struggle to fill gas storage facilities and energy-intensive heavy industries wondering if they can keep the factories running.
Russia denies that it is deliberately throttling supply to cause pain and instability in Europe, but few doubt that it is a deliberate ploy to punish what it calls ‘unfriendly countries.’
In response, European Union countries agreed to a controversial, bloc-wide 15 per cent reduction in gas usage on Tuesday that is hoped will reduce the pressure on European countries most vulnerable to Russian energy blackmail.
Germany is one of the countries most reliant on Russia for its gas supply. The country has been racing to fill its gas storage reservoirs ahead of the winter.
It has managed to reduce its dependence on Russian gas from around half before the invasion of Ukraine to a quarter
Plans to shield households from shocking price hikes are quietly being shelved in an effort to protect energy companies from absorbing the costs themselves and going bust.
Germany has started rationing its gas usage after Vladimir Putin throttled supply from Russia. The vast majority of that gas arrived via Nord Stream 1, a pipeline that Moscow is now throttling it is thought in efforts to punish Germany for its support of Ukraine
UK gas prices are soaring after Russia began throttling off supplies to Europe, causing a global shortage as EU leaders scramble for supplies
‘We can’t say yet how much gas will cost in November, but the bitter news is it’s definitely a few hundred euros per household,’ said Economy Minister Robert Habeck.
Even this number might be optimistic, with some fearing that German bill payers could see an extra €500 (£420) added a year by the Russian gas squeeze.
Meanwhile, UK household energy bills could rocket to £500 a month, which has sparked outrage as the country hardly imports any gas at all from Russia.
This fury has been compounded by news that British Gas owner Centrica has announced its profits had risen five fold to £1.34billion.
Centrica, which produces energy as well as selling it to households and businesses, announced it would restart its dividend at 1p per share after suspending it for three years as the rest of the country struggles with a cost of living crisis.
Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle raged at today’s news, saying: ‘This is not ”profits” this is theft from the British people. Each penny of this should be returned with immediate effect.
‘People will starve this winter, but the government’s failed energy cap (which is as good as a chocolate tea pot) and energy company greed has led to this. This is not ”the global energy price”. 75% of our energy is domestically produced, the cost of production has not increased.’
And today, energy giant Shell joined Centrica in reporting bumper profits of £9.4bn in the second quarter – more than double last year’s figure of £4.5bn.
Germany on the brink: EU’s economic powerhouse is heading for recession and energy rationing – with bills tripling – after Merkel ignored warnings Putin could cripple Europe by choking gas supplies
Europe’s summer heatwave has only just finished, but already panic is growing in Germany over what horrors may lay in store for its citizens this winter.
Vladimir Putin is choking the country’s gas supplies – officially because of ‘essential repair work’ to pipelines, though few doubt he is exacting revenge for Berlin’s defiance over Ukraine. Flows through Nord Stream 1, Germany’s main gas pipe, are now at 20 per cent of normal levels. There are fears it could soon close for good.
That has sparked warnings of energy rationing for both households and businesses which, under worse-case scenarios, could force entire industries to shut down. Domestic energy bills could triple, pushing already-high inflation up by another 2 per cent. £240billion could be wiped off the economy, with aftershocks felt into 2024.
‘Germany is on the cusp of a recession,’ is how top economist Clemens Fuest put it. Others worry the whole Eurozone could soon go into reverse.
Germany is, by a long way, the largest importer of Russian gas in the EU – buying some 52billion cubic metres of gas in 2020 according to figures from the bloc. The next-largest is Italy, on 28billion
Europe’s diplomats admit 15% gas cut pledge has ‘more holes than Emmental cheese’
A moment of ‘unity and solidarity’ against Russia: That’s how EU leaders hailed a deal to cut their gas use, amid fears Putin is about to turn off the taps.
But, at the same time, the Union’s own diplomats have been briefing that the pact ‘looks like Emmental cheese’ because of the number of exemptions it contains.
Indeed, it appears almost half of EU countries could dodge the voluntary reduction as things stand – while more will be able to opt-out if they manage to hoard enough gas before winter hits. Specific industries could also be made exempt.
Far from showing strength against Putin, the last-minute get-out clauses – which did not feature in early drafts of the agreement – appear to be a tacit admission of how hopelessly dependent the bloc is on his energy supplies.
Patrick Triglavcanin, a researcher at the Council on Geostrategy, told MailOnline: ‘Robert Habeck, the German economy minister, talking of how European solidarity and unity is pushing back against Putin is fanciful.
‘Germany’s reliance on Russia for energy, lack of strategic foresight in this regard, and attempts to push its burdens onto other member states is hurting the bloc’s solidarity and unity, as well as the German economy.’
At least eight states are expected to dodge the cut based on exemptions laid out in the deal: Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Ireland, Malta, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
Reasons range from poor interconnection to Europe’s gas or electricity networks – meaning they cannot easily swap gas or energy with their neighbours – to reliance on Russia’s power grid for energy, in the case of the Baltics.
Spain is known to have been particularly irked by demands for a gas cut, with diplomats saying ahead of talks that the country had ‘done its homework’ by building infrastructure that was not linked to Russia.
France, though not expected to seek an exemption, is know to have supported Spain’s position.
Meanwhile Hungary is likely to simply ignore the agreement – which is voluntary, at least for the time being – having voted against the move, calling it ‘unjustifiable, useless, unenforceable and harmful’.
Poland voted in favour of the plans but has voiced opposition, hinting in could apply for an exemption for key industry.
The treaty even contains provisions for countries such as Germany and Italy to reduce the voluntary target if they manage to store enough gas before winter hits.
In order to avert a catastrophe, EU leaders today agreed to cut gas use by 15 per cent but Germany – which imports the most Russian gas of any member state by far – faces double that.
Economy minister Robert Habeck says he is taking shorter showers, while regional leaders are dimming street lights and closing swimming pools.
The fiasco is a legacy of Angela Merkel, who ignored 15 years of warnings from her own top energy expert Claudia Kemfert that over-reliance on Russian energy would make the country vulnerable.
As Viktorija Starych-Samuolienė, co-founder of think-tank Council on Geostrategy, told MailOnline: ‘Germany is in for a rough winter due to its heavy reliance on Russian gas.
‘Despite repeated warnings about the risks of this reliance successive German governments have only deepened it, opening the country up to the risk of Russia doing exactly what it looks to be doing – using gas as a weapon.’
Germany is not alone in relying on Russian natural gas to run its economy, with some 40 per cent of EU member state’s total gas consumption coming from its eastern neighbour.
But years of deliberate policy-making has made Germany uniquely vulnerable to Russian threats to cut gas flows.
First, there is the sheer volume of gas that Berlin imports – almost 52.5billion cubic metres in 2020, according to EU figures, which is around double the next-closest nation, Italy, on 28billion.
Second, Germany produces almost none of its own gas: Imports account for 95 per cent of yearly usage, powering key manufacturing industries as well as heating hospitals, care homes and houses.
Third, is the delivery method: Gas comes exclusively to Germany via pipeline, which unlike other European nations does not have any ports capable of receiving liquified natural gas.
Of those piping gas into Germany, Russia is by far the largest – accounting for 55 per cent of imports before the war – followed by Norway, Algeria and Qatar.
Last: Nord Stream 1 is by far the most important route for getting Russian gas into Germany, capable of transporting almost all of its daily needs – though small amounts did also arrive via the Yamal pipe from Belarus and Poland and the Soyuz pipe that goes via Ukraine.
It means that, by shutting off a single pipeline, Russia could have cut off more than half of Germany’s gas imports and left Berlin with very few ways to switch supplies at short notice.
The situation has improved somewhat since the war broke out. Berlin has managed to cut Russian imports to around a third of its foreign supplies, and two liquified gas ports are under construction at Wilhelmshaven and Brunsbüttel, facing the North Sea.
The first should come online at the end of this year, and the second at the start of next – allowing the country to reduce its reliance on Russian imports further in 2023. But neither will come fast enough to help this winter.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz, caught completely off-guard by the war in Ukraine, has set a target for German energy companies to fill gas tanks to 90 per cent – a task made harder by the fact that storage facilities, many owned by Russian firms, were running critically low just as Putin ordered his invasion.
Firms are on course to miss that target, the country’s regulator said on Monday, which IMF modelling suggests could mean the country running critically low on supplies all the way into the winter of 2026/27.
Despite importing so much gas, it makes up a smaller portion of energy used in Germany than other European countries (pictured) – but runs critical manufacturing industries, and is also used to heat care homes and hospitals
Should temperatures fall significantly below average during that time, then shortages will be more acute.
That could force entire industries to shut down, economy minister Robert Habeck warned recently, as unions warned that many companies will not survive the tumult.
Germany has offered bailouts to any company struggling because of the energy crisis, and has already handed over £15billion to one of its largest energy firms – Uniper – which was at risk of going bust last week.
Under federal law, German households are currently protected from rationing but ministers and executives have begun to warn that may have to change.
The country lacks the infrastructure to physically throttle supplies to homes, so the most-likely way gas would be rationed is to sharply increase prices.
Klaus Müller, head of the federal energy network, has said that household bills couple triple ‘at least’ from next year – urging people to start saving now in order to make it through.
Despite the mounting crisis, Scholz has ruled out the possibility of keeping Germany’s remaining nuclear power plants – mothballed by Merkel – in service. The last three are due to be taken offline by the end of the year.
Politicians say the costs of extending their lifespan are too great compared to the benefit they would provide, though critics point out that the ruling Green party has long been ideologically opposed to nuclear energy.
Instead, the country is being forced to restart old coal-fired power stations despite long-term commitments to reduce emissions to meet environmental targets. Coal is widely regarded as the most-polluting fuel source.
Mr Habeck has spoken of reducing the amount of time he spends in the shower, and has urged other Germans to do the same. Industries are also being encouraged to cut down on natural gas use.
Already, regional leaders and large firms have spoken of reducing central heating temperatures in homes, dimming lights, shutting down swimming pools, and rationing hot water.
The crisis is likely to get so acute that Deutsche Bank predicts large numbers of Germans will resort to using wood burners to heat their homes this winter, instead of boilers.
All of which plays directly into the hands of Vladimir Putin, who is hoping the crisis will weaken stronger-than expected European resolve to oppose his war in Ukraine and lead to some kind of peace deal favouring Russia.
Angela Merkel ignored 15 years of warnings from Germany’s top energy expert that over-reliance on Russian gas was making the country vulnerable (pictured with Putin in 2021)
Moscow has denied the dwindling gas supplies have anything to do with the war, saying instead that turbines which pump the gas need to be repaired and are to blame.
But experts point out that whenever turbines have needed routine maintenance in the past, Russia has boosted supplies through its other lines to cope. That has not happened this time.
Instead, the flow of gas has been slowly strangled. Russia cut flows to 40 per cent of their typical level in mid-June, shortly before Nord Stream 1 shut down for routine repairs.
Many in Germany feared it would not reopen again afterwards, and while that nightmare scenario has not come to pass the flow has been cut again and now stands at just 20 per cent of regular levels.
At the same time, Russia has fully cut off supplies to countries such as Poland and Finland who have taken stronger stances over Ukraine – ostensibly for refusing to pay in rubles – further increasing the crisis.
That has led Berlin to lobby for a voluntary 15 per cent cut in gas use across the continent that was agreed today, though signs of fraying unity were already on show.
Spain and Greece – whose economies were strangled by Germany after they were given bailouts following the 2008 financial crash – are strongly opposed, sarcastically telling Berlin to ‘live within its means’.
Poland, which has led Europe in standing up to Russia, also argued that no country should be forced curb its industrial gas use to help other states facing shortages.
As the days grow darker and the weather grows colder, tensions are likely to rise further – to the delight of Moscow and the fear of Kyiv.