The Government of Germany has declared to raise the alert level under its emergency gas plan to secure supply following the recent reduction of pipeline supplies from Russia.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck asserted, “Gas is now a scarce commodity in Germany.”
Triggering phase two brings Germany closer to the third and final stage that could see gas rationing in Europe’s top economy.
The Phase 2 “alarm stage”, planned for when the government sees a high risk of long-term supply shortages of gas, theoretically enables utilities to pass on high prices to industry and households and thereby help to lower demand.
Since the end of March, Germany has been at Phase 1 of its emergency plan, which includes stricter monitoring of daily flows and a focus on filling gas storage facilities.
A move to Phase 2 has been the subject of speculation since Russian supplier Gazprom cut flows via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to just 40% of capacity last week, blaming equipment that cannot be sent because of sanctions.
In the second stage, the market can still absorb the missing volume without needing state intervention that would kick in in the final emergency stage.
Mr Habeck called on Germans to reduce their gas consumption in a national effort to conserve energy for the winter. “We are in an economic confrontation with Russia,” he said.
A dozen European Union countries have been affected by cuts to gas supply from Russia, EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans has said.
The EU relied on Russia for 40% of its gas before Russia invaded Ukraine.
With Russian supply dwindling and gas prices soaring, some countries have increased the use of coal power plants while insisting this is temporary and will not thwart climate change targets.
Russia’s cuts have raised concerns that Europe will struggle to fill gas storage – now at 55% – enough to cope with further supply shocks during the peak winter heating season.
The EU last month agreed on an emergency law requiring countries to fill gas storage by 80% by 1 November.