The Germans are beginning to tremble. The temperature drops below zero and the heaters are turned up. Our graphics show how this is affecting the gas storage levels and whether the trend could move into a critical area.

Winter has Germany under control, including temperatures down to minus 9 degrees Celsius. It shouldn’t have been difficult for most people to turn up the heating. However, what that means in times of an energy crisis can be seen by looking at the gas storage levels. The Germans recently decided against saving and used 14 percent more gas than in the week before.

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The extreme drop in temperature in the country has meant that the gas storage tanks have emptied much faster than in the previous week. The fill level fell by more than one percentage point for the first time in 2022. The record days: Monday (-1.04%), Tuesday (-1.13%) and Wednesday (-1.02%, actual data). As a result, the filling level of the gas storage tanks on Wednesday was just over 90 percent.

And the comparatively high consumption should continue in the following days. The temperatures will remain low for the time being: on Thursday, weather stations recorded lows of minus 10.1 degrees Celsius, on Friday minus 9.1 degrees Celsius. The German heating systems should continue to run at full speed. What are the implications?

Data from the Federal Network Agency shows that 13 percent less gas was consumed in Germany than in the previous year. One of the reasons for this is that large-scale consumers needed significantly less gas in the summer than in previous years because they had to reduce their production in some cases or even stop it altogether due to very high gas prices.

And yet the data also show that the savings targets that have been set are currently being missed. Klaus Müller, head of the Federal Network Agency, therefore issued an urgent warning on Thursday in the ZDF morning magazine: “December could be one of the coldest in the past ten years. Hence my request nonetheless: Be careful with your gas consumption.”

Müller explained that it would become critical if Germany did not achieve the minus 20 percent savings over the entire winter. His authority currently sees that the savings targets set in both sectors are not being achieved. Both in the private and in the industrial sector, “we are currently not saving as we had planned,” says Müller. The reason for this is, on the one hand, the low temperatures that make private consumers turn to heating, but also the problems in France with its nuclear power plants. As a result, too much gas is used to generate electricity, which is then exported to neighboring countries.

If gas consumption were to continue to reduce filling levels by one percentage point every day, the gas storage facilities would already be exhausted by mid-March. With a daily consumption of two percentage points, the German gas storage facilities would even reach their limits at the end of January. However, that is very unlikely. “We are still very, very far away from a shortage,” said Müller. Germany has taken really good care of this. “We can endure up to three weeks when it gets cold and we consume more. But it must not continue like this into January and February,” he warns.

So the fact is: the colder the winter, the more heating is required and the emptier the storage tanks become. Temperature-adjusted gas consumption, an important indicator used by the Federal Network Agency to monitor the gas situation in Germany, shows the current 14-day moving average of the total gas consumption of household and industrial customers. The reference consumption, which is based on gas consumption data from previous years, serves as a comparative value. It indicates what gas consumption would have been expected without savings at the current daily temperature (temperature-adjusted). The temperature-adjusted gas savings result from the difference between the actual consumption and the reference consumption.

The elimination of these temperature influences makes it possible to better observe how developments, for example in usage behavior, affect energy consumption. The data from the Federal Network Agency shows that temperature-adjusted gas consumption is currently in a critical range. That means: Germany would consume too much gas at current temperatures and not achieve its savings targets.

According to Müller, looking forward to winter 2023/24 is just as important as looking at the current winter. “That’s why we want to have enough reserves in the spring and not empty the storage tanks too much.” Because at the latest after the acts of sabotage on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, it is clear that there will be no more gas from Russia that Germany has been very cheap for so long brought warm homes and kept the industry running. “We are therefore dependent on other imports, for example from Norway or via the first floating liquid gas terminals,” said Müller.

In order not to fall below the 40 percent level legally stipulated for February 1, 2023, the head of the Federal Network Agency advises not to heat every room, sometimes to leave out a room and the temperature “perhaps a little lower allow”. It is also important to check whether the heaters are set correctly.