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ENERGY

Germany on track to fill gas storage facilities ‘to 85 percent’

Despite a sharp reduction in Russian gas deliveries, Germany looks set to meet its gas reserves target for October - but may still fall short of reserves in winter.

a gas meter
A gas meter. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jens Büttner

As fears escalate that Russia could turn off the gas taps in winter in retaliation for Europe’s support of Ukraine, Germany is aiming to fill its gas storage facilities to at least 85 percent by October 1st.

In spite of an 80 percent reduction in gas deliveries flowing through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia, it appears the country is on track to meet its October targets. 

According to the latest estimates, Germany’s gas storage facilities were filled to around 80.14 percent on Sunday. However, official records are usually a few days out of date, meaning that the actual gas levels could be higher. 

However, in spite of the positive news in autumn, experts believe Germany could still fall short of its mandate gas levels by winter.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Scholz looks to Canada as energy supplier

Speaking to DPA on Tuesday, Torsten Frank, the managing director of Trading Hub Europe (THE), said he feared that Germany would not be able to fill all its gas storage facilities to the levels required in November.

“We will be able to fill many storage facilities to 95 percent by November, but not all of them,” he told the Rheinische Post on Tuesday.

That means that certain regions could find themselves running short of energy supplies. 

However, the potential shortfalls are unlikely to affect the entire country and are also unlikely to have a direct impact on private households, Frank said. “We are making good progress with storing and saving. I am very confident that private households will not have to freeze this winter.”

Last week, Russia announced that it would interrupt gas deliveries via the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline for three days at the end of August.

From August 31st to September 2nd, gas supplies from Russia to Germany will be cut off due to maintenance work, the Kremlin-owned energy company Gazprom announced. After that, 33 million cubic metres of natural gas should be delivered daily again.

This corresponds to the 20 percent of the maximum capacity of the pipeline.

Russia has repeatedly claimed that the cut in deliveries is due to a missing energy turbine that is required for repairs to the pipeline. 

However, both Germany and the EU say Russia has been blocking the delivery of the turbine by refusing to fill in customs information. 

“There is no reason why this delivery cannot happen,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in August. Russia’s decision to dock gas supplies to Europe was political rather than technical, he added. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Germany’s alternatives to Russian gas?

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ENERGY

REVEALED: Germany’s planned hardship fund to help with energy bills

The gas and electricity price caps are coming, and the government wants to pay people's energy bills in December - but will that be enough to stop people falling into hardship? Germany's Economics Ministry thinks it won't be and has drafted plans for a new hardship fund. Here's what you need to know.

REVEALED: Germany's planned hardship fund to help with energy bills

When Germany’s traffic light coalition parties – the SPD, Greens and FDP – took office last December, they had no idea that they would be facing an energy crisis on such a major scale.

But with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sending the gas market into turmoil, the coalition’s big plans have been put on the backburner as they work out how best to support people with rising costs. 

Under the latest set of energy relief measures put forward by the Gas Price Commission, the government will shoulder the cost of people’s energy bills this December. It also plans to introduce a cap on both electricity and gas prices, which will come into force next March and be backdated to January.

READ ALSO: Germany plans to cap energy prices from start of 2023

This multi-billion relief package is likely to soften the blow for many households, but according to a new government document obtained by Bild, ministers are concerned that it won’t be enough to stop many people – and businesses – falling into financial hardship.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, federal and state economists ministers want to set aside billions more for additional aid. 

Here’s who can get hold of the extra cash – and how.

Renters and private home owners

People who rent an apartment in Germany and home owners who live in their properties can access additional help from the state if they can prove they’re over-burdened by their heating and energy costs.

That could be due to an eye-wateringly high back-payment for energy bills demanded by the landlord or due to the fact that they have to purchase expensive fuel such as wood pellets for heating. 

More specifically, people claiming unemployment benefits such as Bürgergeld can get some extra cash from the Jobcenter after their bills are calculated by the landlord. If they’re facing a hefty back-payment, or Nachzahlung, they can get up to three months of Bürgergeld retroactively to help cover the costs. 

In addition, someone who wants to claim Bürgergeld for a single month will be spared from having to prove the amount of money they have in the bank. Under the ordinary rules for Bürgergeld claimants, job seekers must have less than €40,000 in savings.

According to the government’s calculations, this emergency buffer is set to cost around €500 million. Claims for additional support will be handled by the job centres or social offices.

Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs)

Small business owners have been among the hardest hit by the energy crisis – but luckily help may be on its way. 

In the document obtained by Bild, ministers say they assume that the gas and electricity price cap will be an adequate level of support for most SMEs. Nevertheless, there could be a few circumstances in which business owners slip through the net:

  • Business owners may already be facing huge hikes in their energy bills before the price caps come into force, for example in the form of a big back-payment for energy costs over several months, or
  • Businesses may find that, due to exceptional circumstances, they’re still unable to pay their bills – even after the price caps are introduced. 

In these two scenarios, SMEs can apply for extra support from the government. 

To be eligible, businesses must either show that their energy costs quadrupled at least three months between January and November 2022, or they’ll have to show that their energy costs have also multiplied in spite of the energy price cap and that their business is highly energy-intensive or costly.

The government expects this support package to cost around €1 billion and says that the details will be worked out after state premiers agree to the proposals.  

READ ALSO: How electricity prices are rising across Germany

Housing companies 

Large landlords could also be in line for some additional government aid under the ministers’ plans. Due to the way the current rental system works, many are paying high bills for heating and energy that they’re not yet able to recoup from tenants in the end-of-year bill.

Housing complexes in Berlin.

Housing complexes in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Monika Skolimowska

To help housing companies that are in this situation, the government wants to offer loans that could help tide them over. Twenty percent of this credit would be secured by the federal states, and the measure is expected to cost around €1.1 billion. 

Hospitals and care homes  

Care facilities and clinics face exorbitant energy bills – even in ordinary times – so this group of institutions will also be given financial aid, the draft said.

This will come in the form of a one-off support payment and ongoing support with gas and electricity bills. Hospitals and care homes will in many cases get their additional costs for energy completely refunded by the state until April 2024. Social agencies and social service providers will also be given subsidies and financial aid to help deal with their increased overheads. 

In addition, cultural sites and facilities like museums and art galleries will get subsidies intended to flatten out the rise in energy costs. In most cases, the energy price cap only applies to 80 percent of a business’ ordinary consumption, but this limit will be dispensed with for cultural institutions. 

However, the government says it still wants to incentive energy-saving measures as well as offering financial support. 

READ ALSO: When will people in Germany get their December gas bill payout?

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