As Russia launched its attack on Ukraine, Europeans relived scenes from another time. Germany will now enact laws to ensure strategic energy reserves to cut down on German energy dependence on Russia.
“Further measures are on the way for next winter, including ensuring a gas reserve is organised in such a way that storage owners are obliged to have the storage full before winter starts,” explained German Vice-Chancellor, Robert Habeck.
“The law for this is being drafted and will then also be presented promptly so that gas is purchased in the summer,” he told journalists on 24 February.
But Habeck’s worries amid a historically significant German unwillingness to rely on Russian energy exports do not end there.
“Germany is 50% dependent on Russian coal imports,” he noted, adding that Germany would proceed in the same way with coal reserves as it was planning with gas.
Nonetheless, at least for this winter, Habeck sought to calm the worries of German citizens afraid of the heating in their flats going out.
Germany is sufficiently supplied with energy sources, Habeck said.
“If there is such a thing as good news on such a day, it is that the energy supply in Germany is secure,” he explained. He added he would do “everything I can” to keep it that way.
Although thirty-five per cent of the country’s oil imports come from Russia, a national reserve would secure supply for 90 days even if supply stopped, he said. While Germany had a gas dependency of 55 per cent on Russian imports, storage levels had stabilised.
“We can now say that we will get through this winter safely. The supply of gas is secure even in the event that prices continue to skyrocket or Russia reduces or completely cuts off the gas supply,” said Habeck. About half of Germany’s hard coal imports come from Russia, and the government would introduce a reserve to guarantee supply security.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine showed that Germany had to become independent of fossil fuel imports “as quickly as possible” and speed up renewables expansion. The current crisis could push Germany to do what is necessary quickly, said Habeck.
“The laziness with which certain things are treated and pursued in Germany, for example, the development of a climate-friendly energy supply, is now being subjected to a tough reality test.”
Until then, Germany would have to diversify its supply. “This includes the additional construction of LNG terminals in Germany so that we can govern energy supply on our own state territory and guarantee sovereignty,” said Habeck.
Germany has started to weigh its options, securing its natural gas supply as Russian imports could be at risk due to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. “Yes, it can,” Habeck said when asked whether Germany could cope with a complete stop of gas imports from Russia.
“There are options for Germany to acquire enough gas and other resources without Russia,” Habeck said, adding that this would likely lead to higher prices.
According to the energy policy newsletter Tagesspiegel Background, the economy and climate ministry (BMWK) will launch auctions for so-called long-term options, whereby gas retailers are paid to withhold gas reserves instead of marketing them.
The government plans to expand its “solidarity contracts” to countries like Poland, Italy or France, including bilateral delivery agreements to avert shortages. A total of nine solidarity contracts are planned in line with EU regulations on gas supply security.
The contracts will include special provisions for “protected customers”, including households, hospitals and district heating systems. However, gas reserves in most of Germany’s neighbouring countries are at very low levels too, which could render immediate relief difficult, Tagesspiegel Background added.
A key component of new import sources will be liquefied natural gas (LNG), of which deliveries to Europe from countries like Qatar or the USA have already increased rapidly throughout the past months.