In the Federal Network Agency there is growing concern that Germany will run into a gas shortage in winter and that the industry will have to adapt to gas rationing. The triggers are new figures on private gas consumption, which, despite extremely high prices, shot up sharply during the first cooler days of September. According to the network agency, consumption last week was around 14.5 percent above the average for the years 2018 to 2021, compared to the previous week it has increased by more than half in one fell swoop.
“Regardless of what the weather will be like: we need savings of at least 20 percent across all areas,” said network agency president Klaus Müller of the FAZ. Otherwise, Germany will not get through the winter without a gas shortage. “I don’t see that with the consumption figures that we last saw. That’s why we will have to make adjustments in the private sector,” said Müller. From his point of view, this also includes pricing.
While the federal government is discussing the abolition of the gas levy and a gas price brake, Müller warned: “In this situation, my message can only be: Dear politicians, we must not lose sight of the steering effect of prices”. Obviously, many people have not yet realized “how expensive their gas consumption really is and what consequences their own high consumption can have for companies and jobs”.
Companies hit first by cuts
The most important control instrument for possible gas rationing has just gone into operation: a digital platform that is intended to provide the Federal Network Agency with up-to-date online data on the 2,500 largest gas consumers and allow reduction scenarios to be run through. These companies account for almost two-thirds of industrial gas consumption. Should there be a shortage and the federal government declare the emergency level, the network agency will initially work with “proportionate” cuts for all around 40,000 companies whose gas consumption is not subject to any special protection, said Müller. Only if that is not enough, in a second stage, would individual reduction orders be issued to the bulk consumers.
Private households and small commercial customers account for around 40 percent of gas consumption. Because gas is mainly used for heating here, it has so far been difficult to estimate how consumption will react to the crisis on the gas market. Gas must be saved, “even if it gets even colder in the winter. It will depend on each individual,” said Müller. It is the first time that the network agency has presented consumption figures for private households. They will be updated every week in the future.
In industry, on the other hand, the high prices are clearly having an effect. Due to the switch to other energy sources, but also production cutbacks and plant closures, industrial consumption in August was 22 percent below the average of the three previous years. In the past week it went down even more: Most recently, industrial consumption was around 30 percent below the comparative value for 2018 to 2021.