ENERGY CRISIS – The concern is palpable beyond the Rhine. Hot water from the shower, office temperatures and why not the lighting of the traffic lights, in the face of fears of a shortage of gas, Germany and the whole country, from municipalities to large companies , prepare for all restrictions.

The government is on the alert for a crucial deadline approaching: the total closure of the Nord Stream gas pipeline from Monday 11 July for routine maintenance. The break is expected to last ten days but Germany fears that Russia, in the context of the war in Ukraine, will permanently stop deliveries through this pipeline which provides an essential part of its supply.

Partial unemployment and teleworking expected

“No scenario can be ruled out,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck warned that Moscow is using “the gas weapon” against Europe in an attempt to undermine support for Ukraine. Consequently, the industrial sector, communities and administrations seek all means to reduce their energy consumption.

“It is possible that we will reintroduce more teleworking for a limited time, such as during the pandemic. But this time to save energy in the national interest, ”Carsten Knobel, the boss of the Henkel group, one of the heavyweights of the Frankfurt stock exchange, explained to the press.

And the detergent and adhesive specialist isn’t the only one who worries. The chemical industry is particularly vulnerable, being heavily dependent on gas. The VCI industry organization says it is preparing for “the worst case scenario”. The giant BASF, whose headquarters in Ludwigshafen, west of Paris, is a real city within the city, is considering the possibility of having some of its employees work part-time, in case of interruption of the Russian gas deliveries they make. operate its turbines.

Real technical problem or Russian diplomatic excuse?

Moscow, citing a technical problem, has already reduced Nord Stream gas deliveries by 60% in recent weeks, a decision denounced as “political” by Berlin. Gas reserves are therefore difficult to fill. At this rate, “we’re running out of gas,” warned Robert Habeck who praised the merits of his nearby shorter and colder showers.

“If we no longer receive Russian gas (…) the quantities currently stored will only be sufficient for one or two months,” warns Klaus Müller, president of the Federal Network Agency.

Hence the invitation to take the initiative because consumers “will be shocked when they receive a letter from their energy supplier” resulting in “tripling” their bills, according to the official.

At the venerable Bundestag, where the deputies sit, an economic plan was adopted on Thursday: more heating above 20 degrees in winter and more hot water in individual offices.

Many cities have already lowered their swimming pool water temperatures or urban lighting. The municipality of Augusta in Bavaria is even considering closing some traffic lights. A housing cooperative near Dresden, in eastern Saxony, has decided to cut off hot water at night in its 600 homes, causing a national controversy.

Thursday is Germany’s first real estate group, Vonovia, which announced plans to limit central heating temperatures to 17 degrees at night in its stock of 350,000 homes.

Polluting coal rather than nuclear

Germany depended 35% on Russian gas for its imports in early June, up from 55% before the war in Ukraine. More than 50% of the heating of the fireplaces is always guaranteed by gas. Whether these measures will be enough to get through the winter remains to be seen?

While it could have lengthened the life of the last nuclear power plants in operation and at the end of their life, Berlin is finally planning more use of coal-fired power plants, which emit far more greenhouse gases. The country buys billions of euros of liquefied natural gas also from other producers, such as Qatar or the United States. But if Russian gas deliveries stop, Germany will have to make “very difficult social choices,” the economy minister warned.

The country will not avoid a recession, with an estimated 6.5% GDP decline between 2022 and 2023, according to major economic institutes. With knock-on consequences for the European economy: BASF produces, for example, essential chemicals for the pharmaceutical, food and automotive sectors.

The German state is preparing to release billions to bail out the country’s largest gas supplier (and Gazprom’s largest customer). The Uniper group, which must buy the missing quantities at exorbitant market prices, in fact presented the rescue request to the public authorities on Friday.

These measures will be accompanied by “a very, very large wave of price increases for German consumers,” warned CEO Klaus-Dieter Maubach. Symbolic shock of the earthquake that threatens: the surge in energy prices in June caused the country’s first monthly trade deficit in years.

See also on the HuffPost: In 1973, the (great) efforts of the French in the face of the energy crisis and shortages

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