In an interview with German regional newspaper, the Rheinische Post on Friday, Klaus Müller rejected demands for industry to be given preference if gas deliveries from Russia are cut off.
Slamming the idea of turning off the tap for households, Federal Network Agency boss Müller said that different interest groups shouldn’t be played off against each other.
“The question of what I can or must do in a gas emergency at home to save gas, CO2 and money so that our country as a whole comes through the crisis well – that is a legitimate question,” he said. “But it applies equally to industry and private consumers – no group should be played off against the other.”
Currently, the supply of energy for private households is protected by law in the event of an emergency, but with concerns growing that Russia could use energy supplies to Germany as a weapon, industry heavyweights are calling for a change of priorities.
In an interview with Manager Magazin on Thursday, Eon Supervisory Board Chairman Karl-Ludwig Kley called on politicians to think about reversing the order of its emergency plan and shutting down private consumers before industry.
Kley said the entire national economy, and with it people’s incomes, depended on industry remaining able to work, adding that it made sense to prioritise business along with critical infrastructure like hospitals.
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‘Out of order’
Politicians from the conservatives (CDU and CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) also lined up on Friday to reject Kley’s proposals for companies be supplied with the remaining gas reserves for longer than private households.
“The economy must be there for the people and not the other way round,” SPD politician Ralf Stegner told Bild. “Demands to change the prioritisation of gas are completely out of order.”
Andreas Jung (CDU), member of the Bundestag Committee for Climate Protection and Energy, also rebuffed the proposals.
“There must be another sensitive discussion about where which savings are justifiable,” he said. “But one thing is clear: nobody should freeze, and private households need special protection.”
Speaking to the Rheinische Post, Michael Hüther, head of the Institute of the German Economy (IW), warned against cutting off private households before industry in the event of a gas supply freeze.
“I understand the concern to supply industry with gas as long as possible,” he said. “But it is not for legal reasons that households are considered protected customers.
“Switching off households would also be linked to safety issues: above all, it would also not even be possible for the grid agency to safely plan a mass disconnection in advance.”