German energy official Klaus Müller, the head of the Federal Network Agency, or Bundesnetzagentur, warned on Friday that consumers may see their gas bills increase by two or even three times as Germany faces the prospect of Russian gas supplies being cut.
He told public broadcaster ARD that an upcoming maintenance stoppage on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that brings Russian gas directly to Germany through the Baltic Sea could see gas cut off entirely.
"Most scenarios are not pretty and result in either too little gas at the end of winter or already — a very difficult situation — in the autumn or winter," Müller said.
Russia has already reduced gas supply through the pipeline to just 40% of its capacity. The German energy official urged people to take steps now to make energy savings since a further reduction of Russian gas could see energy bills rise two- or even threefold depending on the building.
"Everyone in industry and in their home life can contribute to this — and yes, this also includes jumpers, shower heads, turning the heating down a bit, all of this helps," he said.
The uncertainty over Russian gas supplies comes amid Germany's support for Ukraine against the Russian invasion.
Industries may have to shut down amid gas shortage
On Thursday, Müller predicted that Germany could manage for two-and-a-half months without Russian gas this winter.
"If the storage facilities in Germany were mathematically 100% full... we could do without Russian gas completely... for just about two-and-a-half months and then the storage tanks will be empty," he told the Maybrit Illner program Thursday on the German ZDF channel.
He said Germany needs to save gas and find new suppliers amid a supply crunch from Russia. He was speaking during a separate interview with broadcaster RTL/ntv.
Earlier on Thursday, Germany entered the second phase of its emergency gas plan, which would allow suppliers to pass on high costs to consumers, but only with the official approval of the Bundesnetzagentur.
Müller said if Germany enters the third phase of the plan, it would have "terrible and drastic" consequences for the gas industry. Under this phase, the Bundesnetzagentur would ration gas, prioritizing private households over energy firms.
German Economy Minister and Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck told German magazine Der Spiegel on Friday that some industries would have to be shut down if gas supplies run too low by winter.
"Companies would have to stop production, lay off their workers, supply chains would collapse, people would go into debt to pay their heating bills, that people would become poorer," he said.
He told the magazine that Russian President Vladimir Putin's aim is to divide the country, thus creating "the best breeding ground for populism, which is intended to undermine our liberal democracy from within." He went on to say that Germany cannot allow the plan to work.
Germany facing energy crisis as Russia squeezes gas supplies
Germany is heavily reliant on Russian gas. Although Germany and other EU member states have imposed an embargo on Russian oil in response to the invasion of Ukraine, Berlin has shied away from implementing a ban on Russian gas imports.
Russian state-run energy giant Gazprom said earlier this month it would further reduce gas supplies to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Gazprom has also reduced gas deliveries to France and Italy amid western sanctions on Russia.
In order to diversify its energy strategy away from Russian sources, Germany recently signed a gas partnership with Qatar. Germany is also firing up coal plants to become more self-sufficient, despite the environmental drawbacks.
ab, wd/sms, kb (Reuters, dpa, AFP)