War against Russia plunging Germany into a massive energy crisis

Government officials, business representatives and the media are preparing the German public for a massive energy crisis this winter. If gas imports from Russia were to dry up completely, German gas storage would be empty by next February, facilities according to a calculation by the Brussels-based think tank Bruegel.

Freezing in the apartment [Photo by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com] [Photo by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com]

Numerous plans are already circulating to force lower temperatures in private homes and public buildings and to shut down large parts of the public infrastructure—including swimming pools, libraries and sports facilities. Even the shutdown of air purifiers in schools that work to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection is under discussion.

Business representatives warn of the collapse of large operations in energy-intensive industries such as chemicals. Many small businesses, such as bakeries, fear for their existence. Employers’ President Rainer Dulger told the Süddeutsche Zeitung: “We are facing the biggest crisis the country has ever had… We will lose the prosperity we had for years.”

Under German and European law, private households and critical infrastructure such as hospitals, nursing homes and care facilities are given priority protection. But that is already being called into question. Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) suggested reconsidering their prioritization in allocating gas in favor of industry.

The relevant regulation was intended for short-term disruptions, he said during a visit to Vienna. It made no sense in the case of months-long gas supply disruptions. Industry could not automatically be put at the back of the queue, and this would have to be “thought about,” the minister said.

Siegfried Russwurm, president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), said the current prioritization rules for a gas shortage were “only created for short-term interruption of individual pipelines.” For the tough new energy reality, he declared, “politicians in Berlin and Brussels must create a new set of rules.”

But even if critical facilities and private households retain their priority in energy allocation, many will no longer be able to afford the expensive prices for gas and electricity. According to the Federal Statistical Office, prices for energy products already rose by a whopping 38 percent in June compared to the same month last year. Natural gas registered a 60.7 percent hike and electricity now costs 22 percent more.

Last week, Klaus Müller, president of the Federal Network Agency—the regulatory office for electricity, gas, telecommunications, postal and railway markets—and a former Green Party politician, spoke to the news agency RND and clarified the extent of the additional financial burden : “For those who are now receiving their heating bill, the costs are already doubling—and that’s not even taking into account the consequences of the Ukraine war.”

He went on to explain, “From 2023, gas customers will have to be prepared for a tripling of their bills, at the very least.” It was “absolutely realistic,” he said, that customers who currently pay €1,500 a year for gas will be asked to pay €4,500 and more in the future.


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