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Germany to turn down heating to save energy

August 12, 2022

With Russia restricting oil and gas exports to Europe, Germany is looking to save energy in the winter. One of the measures would be turning down the thermostat in public buildings, said Economy Minister Robert Habeck.

A view of the darkened Berlin Cathedral with its facade illumination turned off
Monument lights will be switched off and temperatures turned down at public buildings in Germany this winter Image: Omer Messinger/Getty Images

Germany's Economy Minister Robert Habeck announced plans to limit heating in public buildings come winter and turn off some lights at night to conserve gas supplies in an interview with German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

"Public properties, with the exception of hospitals and other parts of the social system, of course, will only be heated to 19 degrees Celsius," or 66 degrees Fahrenheit, Habeck said.

His comments come after Russia has moved towards reducing and potentially cutting supplies to Germany in what could be seen as retaliation for Berlin canceling the Nord Stream 2 pipeline following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Buildings, monuments and advertisements will also no longer be illuminated at night as part of the latest energy saving measures, Habeck said.

The initial round of measures will be in effect for six months.

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What is behind the energy dispute between Berlin and Moscow?

Russia has reduced supplies to the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, a precursor to the now dormant, unused Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Moscow has blamed the lower flows of gas on a turbine in need of repairs, and then, once the turbine was serviced in Canada, said it cannot take it and install it due to Western sanctions.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz claims that Russia is simply refusing to accept the turbine as a way to manufacture an energy emergency in Europe.

Europe's largest economy relies heavily on Russian gas for heating and industry. While efforts are being made to diversify the country's energy supplies, they come after Berlin turned off the country's nuclear power plants and moved away from coal, increasing dependence on Russian gas.

There is now considerable discussion in Germany about reversing course on nuclear power due to the possibility of gas shortages this winter. The coal plants are also being fired up again to alleviate some of the pressure, though this takes time.

Germany revives coal-fired power plants

What else is Germany doing to confront a potential gas crisis?

Berlin has mandated that the country's gas storage facilities be nearly filled headed into December.

The government has also launched a campaign of public service announcements aimed at convincing the public to do its part to save energy.

Additionally, the German government promoted a subsidized €9 ($9.25) monthly unlimited ticket scheme that is valid on most non-high-speed train lines to boost public transportation and ween people away from fossil fuel consumption this summer.

In July, Berlin banned heating private pools with gas, though it is unclear how much energy that would save.

Habeck also said he enjoys shorter showers that save hot water.

"More energy savings are needed in the world of work, too," Habeck said.

ar/mm,dj (AFP, dpa)