Short showers and limits on heating: Germany prepares for possible power cuts this winter | International

Maintenance work at the Uniper gas warehouse in Muhldorf (Germany).
Maintenance work at the Uniper gas warehouse in Muhldorf (Germany).Krisztian BocsiBloomberg

Next winter will be the first without Russian gas, or without as much Russian gas as Germany was used to using to feed its powerful industrial sector and heat the heaters of many of its 83 million inhabitants. And that translates into a possible rationing for which the Government of Social Democrat Olaf Scholz is already preparing the population. For now it is preventive: it is about saving as much as possible in the face of a difficult winter not only due to shortages, but also due to the drastic rise in fuel prices. A ubiquitous government campaign has been encouraging for a few weeks to take shorter showers, and a little colder, to try to achieve “together” a consumption saving of 10% compared to previous summers.

Warnings about what may come in winter are gaining ground in public discourse. A few days ago, Jens Kerstan, Minister for the Environment in Hamburg, said that the gas crisis – in the context of the confrontation with Moscow over the war in Ukraine – could lead to rationing of hot water also in homes. In an emergency, he assured the newspaper Welt am Sonntag, its availability should be limited to certain hours of the day. The politician from Los Verdes also pointed out that the city-state is considering lowering the maximum temperature of private heating.

Until very recently, it was hard to imagine that the dreaded gas rationing would become noticeable in private homes, half of which are heated by gas. Before the industry would stop, the main consumer of this hydrocarbon in Germany (35% of the total). But the reduction by two thirds of the supply that arrives through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline from Russia, and the fear that the technical shutdown for infrastructure maintenance (scheduled between the 11th and 21st of this month) will become permanent , have fueled fears of widespread shortages.

This week, a housing cooperative in Dresden, in the east of the country, made headlines by announcing that it planned to restrict the supply of hot water to tenants in almost 300 of its 600 flats to cut costs. It would only be available at certain peak times: first thing in the morning, noon and at night. The federal Minister of Construction, Klara Geywitz, had to speak publicly and remember that the law does not allow hot water to be rationed, as a spokesman for the German Tenants Association had already warned, between surprise and anger.

Landlords are obliged to offer hot water in their rental flats 24 hours a day, but what they seem to be able to do is reduce the maximum heating temperature. Vonovia, the largest German real estate company, has started informing its tenants that this autumn the radiators will be running at a minimum at night. The company, which has around half a million homes in Germany, wants to reduce gas consumption by 8% by restricting the temperature between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. to 17 degrees. The tenants’ associations believe that this is also illegal, because, although it is not regulated, several rulings have forced the temperature in homes to be kept at a minimum of 20 degrees. Vonovia assures that his plan is feasible and, in addition, defends that what he intends is “to protect tenants from the horrendous increases in the gas bill.”

The uncertainty about the future of the supply increases day by day. The Minister of Economy and Climate, the green Robert Habeck, has presented this week a bill that gives the Government more room for maneuver in case of emergency. Among other things, it allows laws to be passed by decree that require energy savings and speeds up the injection of public money into energy companies that are in difficulty. Habeck, who has become the visible face of the coalition government in the gas crisis, assured in an appearance in Berlin that for now it is not necessary to resort to these tools. But it is important to have them available, added the also deputy foreign minister, to apply them quickly if the situation deteriorates.

Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.


The cut in Russian supply through Nord Stream 1 ―Russia alleged technical problems in June― has caught Germany in the process of filling its gas tanks, which this Friday they were at 63.2% of their capacity. The Government had set out to reach almost 100% by autumn, but even then the supply would not be guaranteed for the entire cold season. If Moscow fully tightens the gas tap, the storage would be enough for about two and a half months of a normal winter, not excessively cold, warned the president of the Federal Network Agency, the authority responsible for gas, electricity, telecommunications, post and railways. Meanwhile, the Executive accelerates the construction of two of the four floating terminals of liquefied natural gas (LNG, for its acronym in English) in the North Sea, with which the fuel will be imported by ship, and is drafting laws to promote the renewable energies and abandon dependence on fossil fuels as soon as possible.

Follow all the international information in Facebook Y Twitteror in our weekly newsletter.

50% off

Exclusive content for subscribers

read without limits

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button