Germany receives gas boost from France as it steps up energy savings

Household gas use down by 30 per cent as ministers urge consumers to cut back

Gas-fired power plants in Germany could now draw on gas imported from France. AFP
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Germany has received its first gas shipments from France after a cross-border pipeline was put into reverse to ease Europe's energy crisis.

In another boost, new figures showed household gas use was down by about 30 per cent as Germany steps up its energy-saving drive.

The positive developments came after Germany's Economy Minister Robert Habeck said a recession was looming because of the energy crunch.

Europe’s biggest economy is projected to shrink by 0.4 per cent next year as people rein in spending and industrial production slows, Mr Habeck said.

Germany declared a gas crisis in June after Russia cut back supplies, which have since come to a complete halt.

But technical work is now complete to reverse a connector in the Saarland region that was previously used to forward Russian gas from Germany to France.

It means France can sell gas to Germany via the Obergailbach/Medelsheim connector after buying it on the world market.

France has the ability to ship in liquefied natural gas directly from suppliers such as the US and Qatar, while Germany’s LNG terminals are still under construction.

Gas started flowing eastward from France to Germany on Wednesday, and the connector has the capacity to send about 100 gigawatt hours of energy a day.

Germany’s gas storage tanks are now about 95 per cent full, almost two weeks before a November 1 deadline.

“The French gas deliveries via the Saarland are helping Germany’s security of supply,” said Klaus Mueller, the head of Germany’s power grid regulator.

Berlin is being illuminated for a week-long light display despite the energy-saving drive. EPA

Mr Mueller’s agency separately published figures on Thursday showing household gas consumption last week was 29 per cent below a four-year average.

It was the first drop in weekly gas use since August and came after two weeks of above-average gas use had disappointed analysts.

Industrial gas use was also down by 29 per cent, with the savings possibly aided by unusually warm weather during mid-autumn.

“This is good news. More of the same please,” Mr Mueller said.

The government on Thursday stepped up its public information campaign by launching TV and online adverts encouraging people to save energy.

The adverts, which will be broadcast in cinemas, urge consumers to save water, turn down radiators and insulate doors, with the slogan being “every contribution counts”.

Mr Habeck said gas savings were an answer to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to use energy as a weapon.

“We will not let ourselves be intimidated,” said Mr Habeck.

“Gas is a scarce resource and it is important to use it carefully. Every sector is called upon — the economy, the public sector and also private households.”

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said a 0.4 per cent economic contraction was expected in 2023. EPA

Mr Habeck’s Green party was forced to swallow its pride and announce that coal and nuclear plants would be kept in reserve for longer than planned to plug the energy shortage.

While France is stepping in with gas exports, its electricity output has been lower than expected after maintenance problems with its nuclear grid, adding to the squeeze in Germany.

Energy-saving measures already introduced in Germany include colder temperatures at swimming pools and dimmed lights on Berlin’s national monuments.

The flagship car and chemicals sectors have both reported problems as the energy crisis leaves its mark on German industry.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz last month announced a bailout worth up to €200 billion ($195bn) to subsidise energy prices until 2024.

His government is pressing for deeper energy savings at a European level as an alternative to a price cap sought by some member states.

Germany and others fear that setting a maximum price could reduce Europe’s buying power on the world market.

Updated: October 13, 2022, 1:10 PM