The gas storage facilities may be full, but in view of the continued high consumption, experts are sounding the alarm: Germany’s supply is by no means secured. An overview of which sources are currently providing and how far that goes.
If you want to know how Germany’s natural gas supply is, you first need plenty of energy for the pocket calculator: the leading economic research institutes have calculated 1,500 scenarios with an apparently reassuring result: we will probably not experience a gas shortage this winter. However, the “but” behind this sentence is very important: There are various constellations in which the gas would not be enough.
“We are acting in absolute uncertainty,” said Klaus Müller this week. The head of the Federal Network Agency cannot say whether there will be enough gas in Germany this winter. It is a game with many variables for everyone involved. The main ones are: the weather, consumption, suppliers and increasing supply. Military uncertainties hang over all of this, as the explosions on the Baltic Sea pipelines Nord Stream 1 and 2 showed a few days ago.
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The main and most difficult to predict variable is the temperatures this winter. If it gets warmer than average, there is no threat of shortage even without savings. But even at normal temperatures, there can be a lack of gas. However, this negative scenario is practically certain if it is a cold or very cold winter. The result would be rationing in industry. This could only be prevented if consumption fell.
There were many appeals from politicians to citizens to save gas. Consumption has fallen in recent months, but only to a small extent. The Federal Network Agency describes the situation after the first few days of lower temperatures as “very sobering”: Gas consumption by households and businesses last week was well above the average consumption of previous years. “Without significant savings in the private sector, too, it will be difficult to avoid a gas shortage in winter,” said Müller.
Energy has never been as expensive as it is now. But instead of panicking, you should calmly check potential savings at home. As our guide shows, there are many of them.
The gas storage tanks are 91.5 percent full, but that shouldn’t be a guarantee. According to the Federal Network Agency, consumers must also turn down the heating, figuratively speaking. Germany had promised the EU in the summer that it would reduce its gas consumption by 20 percent.
The great hope in the mixed situation is: Will Germany find new gas suppliers – and in time? The share of Russian gas has fallen from 55 to 9 percent. The most important supplier country is now Norway with 38 percent – more than ever before. The Netherlands follow with 24 percent. All other suppliers add up to 23 percent. There are existing pipelines to Norway and the neighboring country of the Netherlands. However, Norway cannot further expand the delivery volume to Germany, as both countries announced in August.
In order to increase the share of the other countries, Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck and Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz have been traveling all over the world in recent weeks. These shopping sprees were by no means a sure-fire success, but the first deals have been sealed. It is not yet certain in what quantities and how quickly additional gas can be imported. The main reason for this is logistics: most of these supplier countries, which include the USA, Canada, Israel and the Gulf States, transport the gas to Europe in LNG form.
Currently, however, Germany can only import liquid gas via terminals in neighboring countries such as Belgium or the Netherlands. The first two mobile LNG terminals could go into operation in Germany this winter. More terminals are being built in a hurry. It is not yet clear whether they will go online in time. If this week has shown anything, it is that extraordinary events and negative surprises must always be expected.
Saving gas also works by expanding other forms of energy. In the long term, this is planned with renewable energies. But in the short term, alternative sources are needed to generate electricity. Lately, this has happened more often through gas than ever before. Economic researchers advise the continued operation of the nuclear power plants that are still in operation. there is also the option of fracking gas again in Germany. However, this will only be possible in years to come, provided politicians can agree on it at all.
Outlook: Should the gas run out, the consequences would be significant. Economic researchers estimate that a shortage could lead to a deep recession. Overall economic output in Germany would then decline by 7.9 percent in the coming year and by 4.2 percent in 2024. The experts also agree on one thing: as difficult as this winter is going to be, the next winter will be even more complicated.
The article “The biggest problems are yet to come” comes from WirtschaftsKurier.