Robert Habeck

The collapse of Russian gas supplies to Europe continues at the initiative of Gazprom. First of all in Austria, where the Russian giant, which started maintenance work on the two Nord Stream 1 gas pipelines, drastically reduced the quantities delivered to the Austrian OMV group. OMV was informed by Gazprom the drop in gas supply, which today translates into a 70% drop in volumes arriving at the Baumgarten terminal (one of the central European gas distribution nodesOMV complained in a statement.

A similar scenario occurs in Italy. Gazprom supplies on Monday only 21 million m3 to the national hydrocarbon company Eni against an average of 32 million tons in recent days, a decrease of one third. Italy is also partly supplied by the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline.

The scenario of shortage and rationing foreseen

What amplifies the concern of Europeans about the scarcity scenario. The quantities of Russian gas sent to Europe have been steadily decreasing since the start of the Ukrainian conflict. Gazprom has already completely stopped deliveries of Russian gas to some countries, such as Poland and Bulgaria, which do not agree to pay in rubles as the energy company has begun to ask. The trend is for a general disruption of Russian gas deliveries to Europe in the coming months. A dynamic that worries about the stocks of gas available to heat families and make European industries work.

The prospect of a gas shortage is now openly discussed in Germany, where the government is considering rationing. In France, a country less dependent on Russian gas than Germany, the energy companies EDF, TotalEnergies and Engie launched an appeal at the end of June for energy sobriety to save the amount of energy available. The government is also starting to sound the alarm and is preparing measures to encourage businesses and households to reduce their electricity and gas consumption.

Measures of sobriety in Germany

Heavily dependent on Russian gas, Germany is on high alert. Although the disruption to Russian deliveries is expected to last only 10 days due to works on the Nord Stream pipeline, Berlin fears that Moscow will permanently halt deliveries through this pipeline which supplies an essential part of its supply. The country, from municipalities to large companies, is preparing for all restrictions. But if Russian gas deliveries stop, Germany will have to make “very difficult social choices,” warned Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck, who praised the merits of shorter and colder showers … Hot water from the shower, the temperature of the offices and why not the lighting of traffic lights, everything is being studied. The industrial sector, communities and administrations are looking for 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, told the press recently.

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 BASF giant, whose headquarters in Ludwigshafen (west) is a real city within the city, is evaluating the possibility of having some of its employees work part-time, in the event of an interruption of the Russian gas deliveries that operate its turbines.

Gas reserves are therefore difficult to fill. At this rate, “we are facing a gas shortage,” warned Robert Habeck.

“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 call to take the initiative because consumers “will be shocked when they receive a letter from their energy supplier” resulting in a “tripling” of their bills, according to the manager. On Thursday, the Bundestag, where the deputies sit, adopted a savings plan: 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.