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ENERGY

How ordinary people in Germany can start preparing for a gas embargo 

Following renewed calls for a complete ban on Russian gas imports to Germany, cold showers and a ban on saunas could help conserve supplies in case of future shortages.

Water running from a shower head.
Water running from a shower head. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

As Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine reveals new horrors by the day, pressure is mounting on Germany to introduce a gas embargo – a complete ban – on Russian gas imports.

If this were to happen, the federal government could declare a state of emergency and take measures to limit the consumption of private citizens to prevent gas storage facilities from being empty by the end of the summer. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: How many massacres will it take before Germany turns off Russian gas?

However, there are measures that people can already start taking to help conserve the country’s gas supplies. 

Speaking to die Zeit on Tuesday, head of the Federal Network Agency – the German regulatory office for electricity, gas, and telecommunications – Klaus Müller called for people in Germany to make an “early start” with saving gas. “Anything that saves a cubic meter of gas today is good,” he said.

READ ALSO: German gas embargo could help end Ukraine war, says expert

Smarter heating

One simple step that ordinary consumers can already take is to reduce the heating in their homes to only the necessary rooms. 

According to Müller, keeping the thermostat below 19 degrees would be a big help, but consumers should also look into whether their homes are being properly heated. 

This can be done by having the heating system checked to see if it is set optimally and to ensure that the property is sufficiently insulated.

No saunas and fewer hot showers

Asked if saunas and large single apartments could be kept heated constantly in the future, the head of the Federal Network Agency said, “No, I don’t think that would be justifiable at all in a gas emergency.” 

Private consumption is still too high, he said, and that people should ask themselves whether they really need to take hot showers seven times a week with gas heating.

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: How quickly can Germany wean itself off Russian gas?

What about German industry?

While the government could, in an emergency, take measures to limit private consumers’ gas consumption, decisions would also have to be taken on which kind of businesses are to be kept going. 

These would most likely be companies from the food and pharmaceutical sectors, Müller said.

According to European specifications, hospitals and gas-fired power plants responsible for district heating are afforded the most protection in the event of gas rationing. 

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ENERGY

Should tenants in Germany be shielded from energy price hikes?

Gas prices have more than tripled in the past year, prompting tenants' rights advocates to call for more social support and a cap on energy costs.

Should tenants in Germany be shielded from energy price hikes?

The German’s Tenants’ Association is calling on the government to put together a new energy relief package to help renters deal with spiralling energy costs.

Gas has become an increasing scarce resource in Germany, with the Economics Ministry raising the alert level recently after Russia docked supplies by 60 percent.

The continued supply issues have caused prices to skyrocket. According to the German import prices published on Thursday, natural gas was three times as expensive in May 2022 as it was in May a year ago.

In light of the exploding prices, the German Tenants’ Association is putting the government under pressure to offer greater relief for renters.

READ ALSO: 

Proposals on the table include a moratorium on terminating tenancy agreements and a permanent heating cost subsidy for all low-income households.

The Tenants’ Association has argued that nobody should face eviction for being unable to cope with soaring bills and is urging the government to adjust housing benefits in line with the higher prices. 

Gas price cap

Renters’ advocates have also joined a chorus of people advocating for a cap on consumer gas prices to prevent costs from rising indefinitely.

Recently, Frank Bsirske, a member of the parliamentary Green Party and former head of the trade union Verdi, spoke out in favour of capping prices. Bavaria’s economics minister and Lower Saxony’s energy minister have also advocated for a gas price cap in the past. 

According to the tenants’ association, the vast majority of tenants use gas for heating and are directly affected by recent price increases.

At the G7 summit in Bavaria this week, leaders of the developed nations discussed plans for a coordinated cut in oil prices to prevent Russia from reaping the rewards of the energy crisis. 

In an initiative spearheaded by the US, the group of rich nations agreed to task ministers will developing a proposal that would see consumer countries refusing to pay more than a set price for oil imports from Russia.

READ ALSO: Germany and G7 to ‘develop a price cap’ on Russian oil

A gas price cap would likely be carried out on a more national level, with the government regulating how much of their costs energy companies can pass onto consumers. 

Strict contract laws preventing sudden price hikes mean that tenants in Germany are unlikely to feel the full force of the rising gas prices this year

However, the Tenant’s Association pointed out that, if there is a significant reduction in gas imports, the Federal Network Agency could activate an emergency clause known as the price adjustment clause.

This would allow gas suppliers to pass on higher prices to their customers at short notice. 

The Tenants’ Association has warned that the consequences of an immediate market price adjustment, if it happens, should be legally regulated and socially cushioned.

In the case of the price adjustment clause being activated, the government would have to regulate the costs that companies were allowed to pass onto consumers to prevent social upheaval. 

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