Cold winter in Germany could spark gas shortage, warns energy regulator

Germany's energy regulator says it's not yet possible to predict if the country will see a gas shortage this winter. But he says that a "very cold winter" will cause problems.

Snow lies on a tree in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, in April this year.
Snow lies on a tree in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, in April this year. If it's a cold winter, experts are concerned about energy shortages. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Bein

Gas could become scarce this winter – but it’s still unclear how hard the country will be hit, according to Klaus Müller, head of the Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency).

In an interview with the Handelsblatt newspaper, Müller said it’s not possible to make predictions about a gas emergency too far in advance. He added: “We’d only know about a gas shortage when it can no longer be stopped.

“The weather, thus private heating behaviour and the situation in neighbouring countries are the decisive criteria.”

Müller said his agency is working on different models to be able to give policymakers and industry a few days’ advance warning of a gas shortage.

“By having well-filled (gas) storage, we can buy ourselves time to prepare for a gas shortage. But we can’t anticipate more than a week and a half in advance when it comes to gas consumption,” Müller said.

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

Should an emergency occur, Müller expects a ripple effect which would impact different areas. “Gas shortages come, they go, they come again, they occur sometimes here, sometimes there, possibly also across Germany,” he said. 

He couldn’t give a reliable forecast of where the risk of a shortage is greatest but highlighted the important role the weather will play. “In Germany, cold spells can happen anywhere,” he said. “If we get a very cold winter, we’ll have a problem.”

When it comes to saving gas, “there is still a lot of work to be done,” Müller said.

He added that industry consumption fell 22 percent in August, in part due to switching to other energy sources, “but also due to hard production stoppages.”

Federal Network Agency

Klaus Müller, president of the Federal Network Agency. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

“Industry is contributing what we have asked of it,” he said.

In the case of private households, Müller said there has been more gas usage in recent days than he had hoped. “Given the warm temperature and the extremely high gas prices, this has surprised me a lot,” he said. “That has to change.”

Müller suspects that many heating systems have not yet been looked at or adapted. “Owners, tenants and housing associations still have the heaters set as they were last fall,” he said. “At a certain temperature, the heaters then jump on in the morning. That’s a warning signal, something urgently needs to happen.”

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Norway and Germany seek Nato-led cooperation for key undersea structures

Germany and Norway want to start a NATO-led alliance to protect critical underwater infrastructure, their leaders said on Wednesday, weeks after explosions hit two key gas pipelines in the fallout from the war in Ukraine.

Norway and Germany seek Nato-led cooperation for key undersea structures

 “We are in the process of asking the NATO Secretary General to set up a coordination office for the protection of underwater infrastructure,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told a press conference in Berlin.

“We take the protection of our critical infrastructure very seriously and nobody should believe that attacks will remain without consequences,” he said.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said the alliance would be “an informal initiative to exchange between civilian and also military actors” with NATO providing “a centre, a coordination point”.

Underwater cables and pipelines were “arteries of the modern economy” and it was necessary to create “a coordinated joint effort to ensure security for this infrastructure”, he said.

Scholz said he and Store would propose the plan to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is due in Berlin for a security conference. The Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines off the Danish island of Bornholm were targeted by two huge explosions at the end of September.

The pipelines, which connect Russia to Germany, had been at the centre of geopolitical tensions as Moscow cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected
retaliation to Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

Although they were not in operation when the leaks occurred, they both still contained gas which spewed up through the water and into the atmosphere.

Russia and Western countries, particularly the United States, have traded bitter barbs over who is responsible for the blasts.

Several European countries have since taken steps to increase security around critical infrastructure. 

The G7 interior ministers warned earlier this month at a meeting in Germany that the Nord Stream explosions had highlighted “the need to better protect our critical infrastructure”.

Norway has become Europe’s main gas supplier in the wake of the war in Ukraine, taking the place of Russia.

The Scandinavian country has a vast network of pipelines, stretching for almost 9,000 kilometres, linking it to the continent, which experts have said are at risk of sabotage.