Germany is preparing for a possible permanent halt to the flow of Russian gas from Monday when maintenance work begins on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that delivers fuel to Europe’s largest economy via the Baltic Sea.
Work on the 759-mile (1,220-kilometre) pipeline is an annual event and requires the gas taps to be shut off for 10 to 14 days. But never before in the pipeline’s decade-long history has Germany seriously questioned whether the flow will start again.
Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy minister, has not hesitated to address the government’s concerns. On Saturday, he spoke of the “nightmare scenario” that could occur.
“Anything is possible, anything can happen,” Habeck told Deutschlandfunk. “The gas can flow again, maybe more than before. It can also be the case that nothing is coming in.”
“We need to honestly prepare for the worst case scenario and do everything we can to try and deal with the situation.”
Contingency plans are quickly being developed across Germany, where there are real concerns for Moscow He might seize the opportunity To increase the armament of gas as a lever against the West in its war with Ukraine and to stop supplies permanently.
Russian gas is vital to the running of the German economy as well as keeping the majority of homes heated. Flows through the pipeline were lowered in recent months It is about 40% of normal levels. Russia has blamed the sanctions for the reduced flow, arguing that they have impeded its access to spare parts.
On Saturday, after consulting with Germany and the International Energy Agency, Canada said it would do so Issuance of a temporary exemption Sanctions Russia for allowing repaired Russian turbines required for maintenance work to be returned from Montreal.
The Kremlin said on Friday it would increase gas supplies to Europe Once the turbines are returned to Russia. Ukraine objected, arguing that it helps the continent’s continued dependence on Russian gas.
But Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, said the permission was “time-limited” and would help “Europe’s ability to access reliable and affordable energy as it continues to shift away from Russian oil and gas”.
Since the outbreak of the war in February, Germany has been working on it Reduce dependency on Russian gas, including through the establishment of liquefied natural gas ports.
On Friday, the emergency law completed its passage through both houses of Parliament to allow the reactivation of coal-fired power plants, despite their carbon intensity.
But the overall withdrawal process was complex and slow.
The short term goal is Try to replenish stocks In gas storage facilities in Germany until winter. The latest reading, released by the Federal Network Agency on Friday, showed the storage facilities’ capacity at 63%. Target 90% by November 1.
The long-term goal is to reduce dependence on gas by increasing renewable energy generation, in part by redefining sectors as vital to national security.
German industry and households consume about two-thirds of the country’s gas supply.
Plans are already in place to prioritize who can access gas in the event of an outage. Hospitals and emergency services top the list, while families rank higher than most industry concerns.
But more locally, as authorities grapple with rising energy costs and the challenge of how to deal if families are left out in the cold this winter, contingency plans have been drawn up that include everything from closing swimming pools and turning off street lights and traffic lights, and housing citizens in industrial dormitories. Not long ago, temporary containers for coronavirus patients were described as “warm rooms” or “warm islands”.
Meanwhile, demand for everything heated without gas has reached an unprecedented level, including electric and oil heaters, infrared panels and convection, as well as basic camping stoves.
Installers of wood-burning ovens and heat pumps mention long waiting lists and point to chronic parts shortages, as well as a shortage of qualified personnel.
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