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ENERGY

Germany must use less gas, warns energy regulator

German authorities say Russian energy giant Gazprom has drastically cut gas deliveries to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline to about 20 percent of its capacity. They have urged people to continue cutting down on gas usage ahead of winter.

A gas flame on a stove.
A gas flame on a stove. Germany is struggling with a huge energy crisis. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The Russian state-run company had announced Monday that it would choke supply to 33 million cubic metres a day – half the amount it has been delivering since service resumed last week after 10 days of maintenance work.

EU states have accused Russia of squeezing supplies in retaliation for Western sanctions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

Gazprom cited the halted operation of one of the last two operating turbines for the pipeline due to the “technical condition of the engine”.

The German economy ministry dismissed the explanation, saying there was “no technical reason for a reduction of deliveries”.

Klaus Müller, head of Germany’s energy regulator, said gas flows had dropped to 20 percent of the pipeline’s capacity on Wednesday from 40 percent.

“We’ll see today if it stays that way,” he said in a statement.

Müller praised consumers and industry for voluntarily reducing energy use, saying that even correcting for warmer summer temperatures, recent consumption had been cut between five and seven percent.

He said this would allow Germany to add to its gas reserves, currently at about 65 percent. Economy Minister Robert Habeck outlined targets last week to reach 95 percent by November 1 ahead of the cold German winter.

READ ALSO: ‘Difficult winters ahead’: Germany sets out emergency energy saving measures

‘War strategy’

“In the autumn the situation will change and gas use will rise,” Müller said, noting the country’s strong reliance for its heating on gas, traditionally imported from Russia.

“Germany has got to use less gas,” he said, calling energy part of Russian “foreign policy and war strategy”.

In parallel, Italian energy major Eni said Gazprom had informed the group it would only deliver “approximately 27 million cubic metres” on Wednesday, down from around 34 million cubic metres in recent days.

The European Union on Tuesday agreed a plan to reduce gas consumption in solidarity with Germany.

German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung called the bloc’s plan a “lesson in humility for the EU’s would-be schoolmaster,” Germany.

“Suddenly we are not the strong ones and are dependent on others’ help,” it said.

The Rheinische Post newspaper said the EU agreement was welcome, but its bid to reduce natural gas demand by 15 percent was “modest at best”.

“If this coming winter proves particularly cold, or if (President Vladimir) Putin turns off the taps completely, then 15 percent will start looking like a drop in the ocean.”

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ENERGY

Germany’s Scholz in Saudi Arabia on Gulf energy hunt

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived Saturday in Saudi Arabia at the start of a two-day Gulf tour, in the hope of sealing new energy deals with the fossil fuel exporters.

Germany's Scholz in Saudi Arabia on Gulf energy hunt

Scholz, accompanied by a sizeable industry delegation, was received at Jeddah airport on the Red Sea coast by Mecca region’s governor Prince Khalid bin Faisal Al Saud.

Afterwards, he went into a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

He is also scheduled to meet a group of Saudi women, before heading to the United Arab Emirates on Saturday evening and then to Qatar on Sunday.

The chancellor hopes to agree new energy partnerships with the oil- and gas-rich Gulf states, with the loss of supplies from Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.

Scholz however is faced with a diplomatic balancing act, as he will have to navigate significant differences with his hosts over human rights.

Scholz’s meeting with the Saudi crown prince is seen as particularly sensitive.

Until recently, Prince Mohammed was regarded as a pariah in the West due to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The German government strongly condemned the journalist’s murder and would not be “editing” its position, government sources indicated ahead of the tour.

Saudi Arabia’s importance as a fossil fuels exporter and regional power meant a “solid working relationship” was needed with the crown prince, a government source explained.

The 37-year-old Prince Mohammed was likely to steer the country through “the next 10, 20 or 30 years”, he added.

Berlin wants to extend cooperation on new technologies such as green hydrogen produced using renewable energy, which Germany could import in vast quantities from the Gulf states, said government sources.

The chancellor would also seek to strengthen political cooperation with the regional powers, courted on the other side by Russia and China.

“We have to work with Saudi Arabia if we want to sort out, for example, the question of the war in Yemen or tackle the Iranian question,” the government source said.

On Sunday morning, Scholz will meet with UAE’s President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

Later that day, the chancellor will travel to gas-rich Qatar to hold talks with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

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