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ENERGY

Germany activates emergency gas plan to secure supply

Germany on Wednesday raised the alarm level under its emergency gas plan as fears rose that Russia could cut off supplies if Western countries refuse to make payments in rubles.

Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck speaks in Berlin on Wednesday.
Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck speaking in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

After G7 countries rejected the Russian demand, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said at a press conference he had called for the first “early warning” alert level under the plan, establishing a crisis team in the ministry to monitor the situation.

Habeck said it was a precautionary measure and that the security of supply of gas in Germany continues to be guaranteed. According to the emergency warning plan, there are three crisis levels. 

“There are currently no supply bottlenecks,” Habeck said in a statement. “Nevertheless, we must increase precautionary measures in order to be prepared in the event of an escalation on the part of Russia.”

Gas reserves were currently at 25 percent of capacity, the minister said during a press conference, adding that a stop to deliveries from Russia would have “serious” consequences, though supplies continued to flow.

With the declaration of the early warning level, a crisis team has convened, he said.

“The crisis team is analysing and assessing the supply situation so that – if necessary – further measures can be taken to increase security of supply. The federal government is doing everything it can to continue to ensure security of supply in Germany.”

Putin announced last week that Russia would only accept payments in rubles for natural gas deliveries to “unfriendly countries”, which includes all of the European Union.

But on Monday, Germany and other G7 countries agreed this demand was “not acceptable” and a breach of existing agreements. 

READ ALSO: Germany rejects Russian demand for gas payments in rubles

The Kremlin reiterated on Tuesday that it will only be accepting payment in rubles for gas deliveries to the EU.

“We are not going to accept a breach of the private contracts” for gas deliveries, Habeck said in a press conference on Wednesday.

Germany is highly dependent on Russian gas for its energy needs, with 55 percent of its supplies being delivered along pipelines from the country before the invasion of Ukraine.

Since the outbreak of the war, Germany has accelerated plans to wean itself off Russian gas and diversify its supplies.

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ENERGY

Russia using energy ‘as weapon’, says Berlin

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck accused Russia on Thursday of using energy as "a weapon", after Moscow announced sanctions on Western energy firms and a key pipeline again saw lower gas deliveries to Europe.

Russia using energy 'as weapon', says Berlin

“It has to be said that the situation is coming to a head, in such a way that the use of energy as a weapon is now being realised in several areas,” Habeck told a press conference.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, on a visit to the German capital, said Moscow had shown itself to be an unreliable supplier.

Kuleba urged Europe to end its heavy dependence on Russian gas that was helping to finance Moscow’s war machine.

“This energy oxygen for Russia must be turned off and that is especially important for Europe,” Kuleba said at a joint press conference with Habeck.

“Europe must get rid of this complete dependence on Russian gas, since Russia has shown… that it is not a reliable partner and Europe cannot afford that.”

Russia on Thursday said it would stop sending natural gas via the Polish section of the Yamal-Europe pipeline as part of retaliation for Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.

The move comes a day after Russia issued a government decree imposing sanctions on 31 EU, US and Singaporean energy firms.

Most of the companies belong to the Gazprom Germania group of subsidiaries of Russian energy giant Gazprom.

The sanctions include a ban on transactions and the entry into Russian ports of vessels linked to the affected companies.

Meanwhile, operators on Thursday reported a drop in gas supplies from Russia via Ukraine for a second day, after Kyiv said it would suspend flows through a key eastern transit pipeline called Sokhranivka because the area wasno longer under Ukrainian control.

But Gazprom has denied there was a case for the Ukrainian side to declare “force majeure” and said it was impossible to reroute all the supplies through another Ukrainian pipeline.

‘Blackmail’ fears

Gazprom told the Interfax news agency that supplies transiting Ukraine on Thursday were at 50.6 million cubic metres in total, compared to 72 million cubic metres the day before.

Germany, which is hugely reliant on Russian energy, said it had been able to make up the shortfall through gas imports from Norway and the Netherlands.

The head of Germany’s Federal Network Agency, Klaus Mueller, also noted that Russia had been very “surgical” about its pick on which companies to sanction, selecting only storage and trading companies, and “not the operators”.

This “very well-planned, precise decree allows it to keep doing business with Germany, but not on old contract conditions”, rather under new conditions that other gas dealers would then have to conclude with Russia, said Mueller.

Europe’s biggest economy is racing to wean itself off Russian energy and has already almost completely phased out Russian coal.

But ditching Russian oil and gas will be more difficult.

With fears growing that Russia could abruptly turn off the energy taps, Habeck said Germany was focusing on building up gas reserves to prepare for winter.

“The gas storage facilities must be full by winter or else we will be in a situation where we can easily be blackmailed,” he warned.

READ ALSO: Russian gas transit halt in Ukraine hits key pipeline’s inflow in Germany

By Michelle FITZPATRICK

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