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German government implements 'alarm level' of gas emergency plan

Published June 23,2022

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck on Thursday declared the "alarm level" of the country's gas emergency plan due to an ongoing dispute with Russia over the war in Ukraine.

Gas is now "a scarce commodity in Germany," Habeck said during his announcement of the move in Berlin.

"Even though gas supplies can currently still be procured on the market and are still being stored, the situation is serious and winter will come," he said.

"It is the failures of the last decade that have now led us into these difficulties," the minister said, referring to the previous government's failure to recognize the necessity of reducing Germany's energy dependence on Russia.

The gas emergency plan has three levels: early warning level, alarm level and emergency level.

The alarm level means that there is a disruption in the gas supply that has led to a significant deterioration in the supply situation. However, the market is still able to cope with the disruption and no state intervention is required.

This second level was triggered just days after Russian state-owned company Gazprom significantly curtailed deliveries via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in what German authorities have described as an act of retaliation for Western sanctions over the war.

Only about 40% of the maximum capacity is still flowing through the pipeline.

German gas storage facilities are currently 58% full, "but if Russian gas deliveries via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline continue to remain at the low level of 40%, a storage level of 90% by December is hardly achievable without additional measures," the Economy Ministry said.

Among other measures, coal-fired power plants are to replace electricity generation from gas-fired power plants. The corresponding law is to be passed by the Bundesrat - Germany's upper house of parliament - on July 8.

"This is painful," said Habeck, a member of the Greens, the junior partner in the centre-left coalition under Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

"Coal-fired power plants are simply poison for the climate. But for a transitional period we have to do it to save gas and get through the winter," said Habeck.

The Kremlin responded to the announcement by saying that Moscow was not to blame for a sharp reduction in gas deliveries.

"The Russian Federation is fulfilling all its obligations," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Peskov blamed sanctions for a delay in repair works. According to Russia, a Siemens turbine for the pipeline is stuck overseas.

Habeck had declared the early warning level at the end of March.

The minister declined to comment on scenarios in which the emergency level would be triggered.

Such a step would result in an intervention by the state in order to ensure supply for "protected customers." These include private households, hospitals, inpatient care facilities, facilities for the care and support of disabled people, as well as the fire brigade, police and the armed forces.

Germany is rushing to reduce its dependence on Russian energy as Moscow scales back gas supplies to Western nations in what is seen as retaliation for sanctions imposed over the war in Ukraine.

Experts say that it is only a matter of time before Germany is completely cut off from Russian energy, either through policy decisions or at the will of Russian President Vladimir Putin.