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ENERGY

ANALYSIS: Just how quickly could Germany wean itself off Russian gas?

A new report from the German Institute for Economic Research claims it could be possible for Germany to be free of its dependence several months earlier than the government claims. Here's how that could work.

ANALYSIS: Just how quickly could Germany wean itself off Russian gas?
A gas line on the construction site of a house. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Willnow

Prior to the war in Ukraine, Germany got 55 percent of its gas imports from Russia and was due to double import capacity with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. 

As tensions mounted, however, Chancellor Olaf Scholz pulled the plug on the project and since the start of the war, Germany has been trying to find alternatives to Russian gas. At the latest estimates, around 47 percent of Germany’s gas comes from Russia. 

What measures have already been taken?

As the war in Ukraine has escalated, the German government has been seeking alternatives to Russian gas, such as building new liquified natural gas (LNG) docking stations, making deals with other gas suppliers – such as Qatar – and encouraging households to be frugal with heating their homes. 

READ ALSO: Germany to ‘fast-track’ gas terminals as part of Qatar deal

Despite these measures, German Economics Minister Robert Habeck recently said that he still assumes that Germany will need until mid-2024 to become independent from Russian gas. 

Is there no way to speed this up?

There may be. According to a new report by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Germany could actually manage to do without Russian gas by the end of 2022. 

“If the energy savings potential is maximised and at the same time supplies from other natural gas supplier countries are expanded as far as technically possible, Germany’s supply of natural gas will be secured even without Russian imports in the current year and in the coming winter of 2022/23,” the study says.  

READ ALSO: Germany activates emergency gas plan to secure supply

How could this be done?

The study states that a faster departure from Russian gas dependency does not mean that Germany has to build its own LNG terminals. Instead, the existing ones in the Netherlands, Belgium and France could be used to transport more liquefied natural gas to Germany via the European pipeline network. This, it claims, could eliminate more than a quarter of Russian imports. 

The report also advocates ramping up natural gas imports from traditional supplier countries such as Norway or the Netherlands, and claims that more imports from Norway alone could save about one-fifth of the current Russian imports by more than 50 billion cubic meters per year.

More efficient use of the German and European pipeline system to connect Germany with southern Europe, where supplies arrive from North African countries such as Algeria and Libya, could also ease the situation in the future.

“Admittedly, the additional supply is not sufficient to replace all of the previous Russian natural gas imports,” the DIW admits but, if combined with a decline in natural gas consumption, then Germany’s energy supply would be secure.

Demand could be reduced by between 18 and 26 percent – for example, by completely replacing natural gas in power generation, which the study claims could eliminate up to half of Russian supplies.

In the case of private households, the use of natural gas can only really be saved by reducing demand. Therefore, the report says that energy-saving campaigns are needed as soon as possible, and “measures that increase energy efficiency and facilitate the switch to renewable heat (in combination with heat pumps) must be implemented as soon as possible.”

READ ALSO: Why Germany has urged households and businesses to cut back on gas

Member comments

  1. In which reality was their report based on? Turn of most power plants to be replaced with renewables and heat pumps.

    Its not really a problem with inflation sky rocketing come next winter only the super rich could eat and heat. Wont need so much gas if no one can afford it. Can the DIW work in reality instead of fantasy

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POLITICS

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Germany's investments in defence in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine will transform it into the biggest contributor to NATO in Europe, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Alongside the United States, Germany is “certainly making the largest contribution” to NATO, Scholz said in an interview with the ARD broadcaster.

Speaking at the close of a summit of leaders from the Group of Seven rich democracies, Scholz said Germany was in the process of creating “the largest conventional army within the NATO framework in Europe”.

Days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Scholz announced a 100-billion-euro ($105-billion) fund to beef up Germany’s military defences and offset decades of chronic underfunding.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Bundestag approves €100 billion fund to beef up defences

He also promised to meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defence, answering years of criticism from close allies that Berlin was failing to contribute enough to the alliance.

Russia’s invasion had led to a renewed conviction “that we should spend more money on defence”, Scholz said.

“We will spend an average of around 70 to 80 billion euros a year on defence over the next few years,” he said, meaning “Germany is the country that invests the most in this”.

Scholz’s announcement in February was seen as a major policy shift, upending Germany’s traditionally cautious approach to defence as a result of its post-war guilt.

Germany had steadily reduced the size of its army since the end of the Cold War from around 500,000 at the time of reunification in 1990 to just 200,000.

NATO allies are from Tuesday gathering in Madrid for a summit, where the United States is expected to announce new long-term military deployments across Europe.

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