Germany to limit heat and light in public buildings amid gas shortage

Europe's largest economy is trying to wean itself off Russian imports while avoiding shortages over the winter.

The Brandenburg Gate illuminated in the colours of the Ukrainian flag in May - ironic, given the gas shortage stoked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine has prompted the dimming of lights in public buildings in Germany. Reuters
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Germany will limit heating and lighting in public buildings over the winter to save on gas, as Russia slashes supplies to Europe, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Friday.

“Public properties — with the exception of hospitals and other parts of the social system, of course — will only be heated to 19°C,” Mr Habeck told the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung in an interview.

Europe's largest economy, which relies heavily on gas to heat homes and power industry, is trying to wean itself off Russian imports while avoiding shortages over the winter.

The European Union reached a voluntary accord with its member states in July to reduce gas use in their respective countries by 15 per cent to ensure the bloc can withstand Moscow's threats to cut off its westward gas flows.

However, EU member states had already been taking emergency energy-saving measures, including promoting cold swimming, short showers and sealed shops. Now Germany is going further.

The German government has mandated gas storage facilities be filled almost fully by December and it restarted mothballed coal plants to mitigate energy supply issues.

A public information drive has been launched and the government has also announced plans to subsidise public transport over the summer.

Among the other measures decided in July was a move to ban the heating of private pools with gas.

Mr Habeck, who has said he is personally taking shorter showers to save hot water, said that “more energy savings are needed in the world of work, too”.

Germany's announcement came as European gas prices soared as flows from Russia through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline remain low, exacerbating the region's energy woes, a report by Rystad Energy showed.

Norwegian exports to the UK also slipped due to a breakdown at the Sleipner export hub, which put further pressure on prices.

Updated: August 12, 2022, 7:12 PM